The One-Man Social Media Empire

Social Media Empire BagI was always told “You don’t go looking in ladies’ handbags, you never know what you might find” which seemed more of a temptation to me than a discouragement. And in that spirit, today I’m going to open up my one-man social media empire bag and let you know exactly what’s in it.

First an explanation for those who haven’t been following. I’ve been talking about having a one-man social media empire for some time now. I often stand up at events, lift up my green canvas bag and show off about how it contains a newspaper, radio station, tv station and film production company. I don’t understand why more people aren’t doing it – or maybe they are and I’m too busy bragging about my own stuff that I fail to notice everyone else smirking and tittering behind my back – it has been known. Anyway a large proportion of my time is now taken up creating what I call “Rich Records

I’m tempted to make a video of me emptying the bag, but I’ve decided against it as it wouldn’t actually tell you a great deal more than the following, other than to give you a realistic view of what a ridiculous proportion of cable to kit there really is.

I have to admit that I’ve never been one for splashing out on kit. Ever since I started podcasting I’ve only used what came to hand, stuff that I’d already got – and while I’ve had to replace some items, I’m much more interested in what I can do with them, rather than how much they cost or how funky the spec-sheet is. But this might be useful to those sad souls out there who would like to emulate my empire. Calculating the cost of replicating the kit here is left as an exercise for the reader.

So then, the contents of my bag:

Laptop

OK, so you need something that can connect to the interwebnets, preferably wirelessly and with a battery that holds a charge for a long time. I had to get a cheap and heavier than I’d like Toshiba after my lovely (but stupidly uninsured) Acer Tablet got nicked. Obviously the lighter the better – needs a sizeable HDD to cope with the amount of video and audio that ends up getting stored and plenty of USB ports. I couldn’t find one at the time that fit my budget and came with a built-in firewire port (for transferring video), so I had to get one on a PCMCIA card – fiddly but workable. Some people will tell you that you really need a Mac in order to do podcasting and videoblogging well. In my experience they are the same people who will always tell you that you really need a Mac. I haven’t used a Mac in anger since 1996 so I don’t really know.

Audio recording

For podcasting and recording an audio track for the more formal (snicker) video stuff I do, I use a Sony Minidisc because that’s what I had lying around in 2004 when I met Adam Curry and saw the podcasting light shining from his podfatherly halo. I have improved on the original (which would only transfer audio to a PC in real time down an audio line) by splashing out on a Sony Hi-MD model MZ-NH700. The Hi-MD disks hold 1GB or “quite a long recording time” Note that they don’t talk to Macs at all.

I have no “cans”. I prefer to look stupid for only having little earbuds rather than looking stupid for looking like Phones out of Stingray.

I have two microphones, both cheap and from Maplin I think, but both do the job.

My stick mic is an SBC MD650 from Phillips – came with it’s own cable and I have a phono to mini-jack converter to plug it into the minidisc. I then have a stereo clip on mic for wandering around stuff. This is a Yoga (I consider myself more of an intermediate :-o ) EM-8 which has far too much cable but does give a really cool stereo vibe, especially weird when listening to me walking in traffic.

Video recording

I have a JVC GR D200 which I picked up in Dixons a couple of years ago for domestic use. I chose it because it was cheap and it fits nicely in my hand and those are the technical criteria I would recommend :-). It records on MiniDV and transfers to PC via a Firewire cable. When I need to buy another one, I’d like quicker transfer to PC and an external mic input. I don’t have a functioning stills camera at the moment but will get a digital SLR when funds allow – I grab stills from video I’ve shot or use my cameraphone.

Tripods

I have two, one is a mini one that sits on a table top and has a mic clip too. I usually use this as a mic stand but have to be wary when interviewing thrusting corporate execs who like to punctuate their speech with thumps on the table. The other is a bit of a cheat as as it doesn’t actually fit into the bag. But especially when I’m doing one-man stuff, it’s good to be able to the put the camera down and walk into the shot or just hold it still for a while several feet above the ground. Not essential, but useful.

Software

Partly a function of the hardware I use but I stick with freebie stuff wherever possible.

I have to use SonicStage to transfer audio from the minidisc – it does however now automatically create .wav files for me so that’s a lot less of a hassle than it used to be. I use Audacity to then edit the audio and produce mp3′s.

For video I just use Windows Movie Maker – it’s fine, it doesn’t have all the bells and whistles but they usually confuse me anyway and it does what I need it to do. If I need to convert to Quicktime I use the AVS video conversion suite which set me back something like 15 quid – a useful feature of this is that it will also strip a wav audio file from a video soundtrack for manipulation in Audacity.

Hosting

Obviously this doesn’t fit in my bag…. but it popped into my head that this might be useful information too. I put my videos on YouTube now – may switch if they start to get evil. I also have a couple of libsyn accounts which are useful because they have unlimited download bandwidth but they’re used primarily for podcasts and audio files. I blog here using MovableType but use wordpress.com for freebie blogs.

Cables

Don’t get me started. Separate power cables (with transformers) for each bit of hardware (laptop, minidisc, camera); mic cables; firewire cable from camera to laptop; USB cable from minidisc to laptop; stereo audio line for carrying an audio signal from minidisk to laptop when doing Skype recording (whole other post)

The bag itself came from a very excellent NMK event at the ICA last year – funkiest conference bag ever.

Social Reporting and Rich Records

I&DeA Rural Excellence ConferenceDavid Wilcox writes about the role of Social Reporter.

“Online forums need hosts and moderators, workshops need facilitators, networks require some weaving to develop links. But how, for example, do you do that fast around an event, capture content, and follow through afterwards? I’m pondering the possible role of the social reporter. “

My experience is that it’s a big job, and we haven’t quite worked out whether, or how it’s worth the effort yet. Luckily there are people like us who don’t mind having a go without a stong prior proof that it will work and deliver benefit :-)

I’m taking a softly, softly, catchee monkey approach. I think (and my order book shows) that we have agreement that it’s a “good thing” or at least a “nice thing” to have a richer record of a days proceedings and that blogs and wikis are a good way of producing that. What I agree we haven’t done yet is get to the point where we’re able to weave everything together to make it useful enough to participants that they want to do more than view the record.

But maybe that’s not our responsibility…yet. I see a risk that we’re pushing people too fast along a learning curve that we’ve taken a while to go along ourselves. I found last week that It is enough novelty for the average conference participant to deal with the fact that we’ve taken pictures, done some vox-pops with people and live blogged a keynote and they are up on the internet at the end of day 1! Maybe we should just let this aspect sink in for a little bit – if they want to interact as well, then that’s fantastic and we should be ready for it when it happens, but in the meantime, perhaps we could be honing our reporting skills in this new environment.

Especially if we are also introducing more social aspects to the event, breaking down the distinction between presenter and audience – novelty fatigue might set in – I have to remember that not everyone gets bored as easily as I do!

[Bonus Link: Tara Hunt opens up an interesting conversation about measuring the health of communities – graphic equalizers are a little cybernetic for me, but rtwt]

A Yorkshire mini-adventure

I trundled up to York on Sunday evening (thumbs down to GNER for their wireless not working, thumbs up to Best Western Hotels whose wifi was not only working in my room and all over the hotel, but was free too). I was there to cover, in blog form, an I&DeA conference on Rural Excellence.

I’m currently selling this service as “Rich Records” and Mark Hucker, one of the agency’s most forward-thinking senior managers (thanks for the fiver, Mark) asked me to use their communities of practice software to pull together something for people to talk about during and after the event. Since the CoP stuff had difficulty embedding video initially (it’s OK now) I put up a wordpress blog to run in parallel so that people could see everything together – which means that you can go and have a look yourselves without having to go through the registration with I&DeA. Of course, if you have a real interest in rural issues or other areas that the agency deals with, I’d recommend signing up with them anyway, but for the casual visitor go look at the blog for now (until I get asked to take it down).

Anyway, another thrill of the two days was to get to meet and interview Prof. Heinz Wolff childhood hero from his time on Young Scientists of the Year (shockingly little of this show survives on the interweb) and The Great Egg Race. Prof. Wolff gave us an entertaining after-dinner speech on the need for greater risk-taking in society (including some potentially hair-smouldering pyrotechnics) and then he addressed the main conference talkign about using traditional aspects of rural society to solve 21st Century urban problems. I particularly liked the idea of using old ladies to staff call centres – “Oh, yes Uncle Harry had that problem too, and do you know what we did with him? Well…”

After everyone else had gone home on Tuesday evening, came the least-planned, but most heart-warming bit. I made a last-minute arrangement with the author of Knitting Yoghurt, whom some of you will recognise from her blog and whom I haven’t seen for 20 years, to dash across from York to deepest West Yorkshire for an evening of Yorkshire Pudding… meat-free toad in the hole, getting to know her delightful children (a discussion on which was the toad and which the hole and an exploration of German vocabulary for fruits and vegetables) and then sitting by the fire and reminiscing over a lovely cup of tea. In the morning, after meeting the assembled playmobil folk, I had to get on a train at 10.50 to be back in London, but it was a lovely, spontaneous thing to do – clearly those red pants are working.

Love, Links and Lysistrata

oooh!Gia says “Typing ‘a href’ is not a creative act.” after her run in with Maryam Scoble.

I disagree. Typing ‘a href’ is *the* new creative act that makes all of this possible. Without links we just have nodes – we need both to make the network – the best bloggers have always been the ones who write amazing stuff *and* link to amazing stuff.

We’re playing the old game when we discriminate between different types of creativity. Shall I throw a tantrum because I didn’t get a round of applause for the amount of carbon dioxide and methane that my body has created today?

In my experience, demanding credit is a much less satisfying use of my time than just making more stuff that I think is cool.

I think we need to scale down our expectations of link-love a lot and be satisfied with the offline credit that we do get. It’s still great for me when people I’ve never met say “oh you’re at Perfect Path” or I hear someone go “there was this guy making bottles of Stormhoek explode” and I can say “yeah, that was me”. It’s taken a while, but there are now people saying “We’ve seen that you can do this stuff, have a large wodge of cash for doing it for us”.

Anyway I think Maryam’s way more pissed off with Robert than with Gia – time for some offline credit building activities I think – someone in her comments has already suggested the Aristophanean solution.

Hallam Foe Bloggers Screening




The Balmoral Hotel

Originally uploaded by Matito.

So it’s a fortnight since I saw the first bloggers screening of Hallam Foe, a film by David Mackenzie (softly spoken, but clearly a bull-headed Taurus underneath). I said on the night that I don’t like talking about a movie straight after watching it, but this is ridiculous!

We were asked not to review it but I will say It’s a gorgeous movie experience. So what has stayed with me for two weeks? I think foremost the that this is about taking the first steps in the life-long process of growing up, the paradox of growing up in a world where there are no grown-ups – or else that growing up means finding out that grown-ups aren’t all that grown up themselves. I was really glad that Hallam didn’t emerge from his rite of passage “a man”, grown up and finished, able to take on the world.

I also saw it about being apart from the city and it’s people, while being a part of the city. Also that despite moving from fabulous countryside to a fabulous city, he still takes himself with him – the tree house becomes a clock tower, his mother (literally) becomes his boss (Sophia Miles….droool), his father and stepmother’s relationship is replicate in his boss and her lover blah blah blah.

But I digress into reviewer, which I’m not. I was most fascinated by how my fellow bloggers found their own experience of adolescence in the film. Of course I did the same, but I’m going into details here. What do you think I am, some kind of exhibitionist?

Go see the Hallam Foe production blog by Colin Kennedy and the nascent flickr photostream. And if you’re that way inclined, check out the myspaces for Hallam, Kate and Verity

1 Vincent Square




rip it all out again

Originally uploaded by Lloyd Davis.

On 1 August 1994, the Audit Commission moved back into 1 Vincent Square after a refurbishment. It was also the day that I started working there and I was comforted in my newbieness by the fact that no-one else really knew where anything was either…

[pause while I shudder at the fact that this is all twelve years ago]

Well, the Commission moved down to Millbank a couple of years ago and No 1 has stood empty for a long time, but now it’s being done up again, I have no clue for what purpose. So, when I passed down Regency Street, I pressed my nose and my cameraphone up against the window of what used to be Publications (the site of so much feverish activity, now still and dusty) and love the fact that you can see right through to the front without all the clutter in between.