Archive for screencast

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.


Lance Strzok


Why Screencasting?

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity with tags , , , , , , , on April 13, 2011 by Lance Strzok

So, why do I spend time one this screencasting process and software?

First a word on what screencasting is – Basically, it is software that takes between 10 and 50 pictures of the screen per second while it records your voice as you demonstrate some activity on your computer. Then it can convert those pictures into something much like a movie with audio and you can share that movie with others. In general, it is a great way to explain and share how you do things with software or computers. Video in the form of a camcorder or phone video recorder generally requires more storage than screencasting software, but is usually better used for showing processes not involving a computer. You see a lot of Youtube videos that use actual video recordings to demonstrate how to do things with physical processes, and screencasts for things on computer screens. But as we do more and more with computers, it makes sense that screencasts will become more useful in this way.

I spend a fair amount of time sharing what I know with people I interact with. I like to help, and I like the look on people’s faces when the light bulb goes off and they see how they might want to use some particular piece of software for something they are working with, or alternatively, when they say that they have been trying to find something to do a certain task or make a process easier for them and I manage to show them something that meets their needs.

But I started to realize that sending me around to train everyone was not the answer, and that creating screencasts that demonstrate doing something and then sharing that screencast was repeatable, on demand, and frees up time for me to work on creating new content instead of spending all my time teaching the same processes and procedures over and over again. This expands to training in general. If it is done on a computer, than screencasting gets you a lot of bang for your buck.

Furthermore, if you have a help desk, or a place where people generally can ask for help or questions, you can post a link to the screencast that addresses that problem or question and you may have just averted a trouble call or spending man hours helping someone else understand a process that has already been documented and explained fairly well. Another really nice thing about screencasting out the functionality or process that some piece of software or several pieces of software can do is that even if I did happen to give the training to someone at some point in time, maybe they forgot, or needed a refresher. Also, it can be delivered on demand, from any time zone, without cutting into my time of creating more content and dicovering what else needs to be explained.

So it appeals to me in several ways, it captures an idea and makes it easy to share with lots of others, and it can be recalled on demand as well as freeing me up to do other meaningful work. It also fits the learning styles of a good number of people that are visual learners. People that like to see it done, and think about how they might use it to do something they need done. So over all, I think of  savings, time, and repeatability as good reasons to use this medium for software or computing activities that you want to share.

Enabling your workforce to create these videos and help each other learn how to do things that they do could prove to be an incredible force multiplier. Think of it as the “self help” desk. If you have one location where the videos are stored, and if you incentivise creating the videos by your employees, the ones that get voted up as most useful could be a real hit, and share best practices across the command. Not to mention you can categorize them and tag them so that when someone needs help with MS Excel, they can find the help they need in video form, or hit one of the chat rooms on the subject.

What do you need to make a sceencast? Well, a microphone and the software I posted about in my previous blog posts. Beyond that, you might want to make a screencast of how you use that software to allow your employees to come to understand it, although if you can create one that helps with the correct settings, beyond that it is fairly intuitive.

Like I mentioned earlier, after you enable them to create content, and a place to put it, then find a way to incentivise it a little so that people create content and share the things that make them so successful. If you hang the videos in an environment where people can vote and comment on videos, you could start to find the folks that really know how to convey knowledge and share. It also captures some of the corporate or tacit knowledge before it leaves the organization.

I have seen screencasting used to help launch software that you are going to start offering at work so that people can see it and comment on it before you actually launch it

Other common uses for screencasts are:

* Screencasts can help demonstrate and teach the use of software features

* Software developers can demonstrate their work

* Screencasts are helpful to submit along with reporting a bug  where the movie takes the place of a written explanation

* Show others how a task is accomplished in a specific software environment


* Presentations can be captured and shared for those that could not attend the original lecture, saving the cost of travel and hotel costs and the time lost in getting too and from the event

*Considering the high cost of instructor, faculty led training, and most computer based training, screencasting is a good candidate for imparting high-quality knowledge at a low cost from a larger distribution of expertise across your organization

* Screencasts usually capture software better than a video being taken of the activity on a computer screen, and take up less storage as well as easier to stream and share later in a downloadable form

* Educators are embracing screencasts as another means of integrating technology into the curriculum as well as sharing what a student may have missed if they could not attend class, and it creates the potential for online courses on that topic or subject


* You can capture a screencast using hardware such as an RGB or DVI frame grabber card. This approach does not have the OpenGL limitations associated with several Microsoft based solutions

All in all, I see it as an effective and fairly inexpensive to provide a mechanism for creating and sharing process, content, and ideas on demand and with little overhead. That is the reason that I encourage any organization to enable their people with this software and hardware.


Sharing my Screencasting Process

Posted in Web2.0 Productivity, work with tags , , , , , , on October 4, 2010 by Lance Strzok

1) Record screencast with CamStudio version 2.0 and the “CamStudio lossless codec” that can both be downloaded at the link provided.

2) Save as an AVI file from within Camstudio.

3) After capturing the screensession, open the file with Anyvideoconverter and save as an mp4 file.

4) Open with AVIdemux for editing and save as mp4.

(The Anyvideoconverter and AVIdemux sofware steps 3-4 can now be replaced with Freemake Video Converter  Which can do the conversion and is a nice editor.)

In a little more detail, (thanks Karen),

On a computer, open the software tool called CamStudio. This tool allows the user to take a screen capture an estimated thirty frames per second and also captures audio.
Open the software that is going to be demonstrated or open the target software, such as Microsoft Excel 2007 or Microsoft Word 2007

In CamStudio, configure the settings for optimal capture of the software activities, as in this particular case, the steps in how to use Microsoft Excel 2007 or Microsoft Word 2007.

After the optimization, start the recording and begin the software demonstration. (As a side note, if a mistake is made, do not stop recording. Pause yourself and take a deep breath.

Gather your thoughts and start again at a point just before you made the mistake.

When the demonstration is complete, press the stop button in CamStudio to stop the recording.

Save the file as it is as an AVI file.

Convert the AVI file into a manageable file size by using another software tool named “Any Video Converter” to convert the AVI file into a MP4 file. This conversion can reduce the file size by ten to twenty times its size.

After the conversion, open the MP4 file with another software tool named Avidemux, for editing.

Edit out any mistakes made in the recording and save the file as a MP4 file.

Close the MP4 file and open the canned introduction recording.

Append the recent software demonstration recording to the introduction recording.

Append the canned closing to the software demonstration recording.

Save the now merged three parts of the recording, (introduction, demonstration, closing) as one MP4 file.

Distribute the learning video to the appropriate site for others to view.

You must know-
How to use and configure CamStudio, “Any Video Converter”, and Avidemux
Have the knowledge on audio and video codec’s to properly configure the three software tools mentioned above.
Know the software activity or activities that are going to be demonstrated.


If you want the exact settings I  use look here:…s-and-software/