Audio and video blogging seem to be hot topics currently. I myself have done two, pretty low-tech, audio blog posts. Both were readings of textual posts, one of a Read/Write Web classic from January 2004 - The Fractal Blogosphere. And the second audio post was something I wrote just last week - A New Kind of Literacy. The results of my experiment? Ahem, it's fair to say my audio blogging has underwhelmed the blogosphere.
At first I was a bit perplexed by this, because I had thought that hearing a blogger's voice would give an extra dimension to blogging and bridge the gap even more between writer and reader. Audio blogging, I'd theorised, would bring the weblog as avatar concept one step closer.
However the reality turned out different. For a start I didn't get as much feedback on my experiments as I'd hoped for. Despite my C-List status, I expected at least 1-2 "so that's what you sound like!" type comments. Eventually I managed to coax a couple of blog buddies to give me some feedback. And it was then that the penny dropped. Thank-you Andrew and Liam!
Here's a summary then of what I did wrong and why audio blogging isn't for me, at least right now:
1. Reading out long-form blog posts, of a technical nature, isn't optimising the audio format. Each of my audio posts was 9-12 minutes long and dry in content - too long and boring to hold peoples attention. The optimal use of audio blogging is short, sharp and off-the-cuff commenting. Liam put this best:
"It's totally cool to hear your voice and all but I think it works best in short blasts - reading out the blog is a bit redundant and right now I think audio blogging is great for spur of the moment reports from the field."
2. There was little in the way of added value in my audio renditions of textual posts. I pretty much orated word for word what I'd written, so for people who'd read it on the screen there was nothing extra to be gained by listening to it. Except of course, for the curiousity value of hearing my voice (which turned out to be pretty low value). If I was to audio-blog again in the future, I'd look at purchasing software such as Garageband and try to add things that complement the text - background music, sound landscapes, voice sampling, digital recording trickery. In other words, mix in some media!
Andrew Chen summed this up well:
"If I were to really want to listen to it, it would be for value-added-ness in which the quality of your tone, rate of speaking, and so on would actually tell me more about the content than was conveyed in the text. Of course, given the nature of what you're writing about in those posts, there isn't supposed to be much more than what is conveyed in the text."
3. Lack of excitement. OK, I admit I'm not exactly a Barack Obama-like orator. My delivery was monotone, although I did try to inject some enthusiasm into the second post. There was even a brief moment of hilarity when I read out the 2blowhards.com quotes... wasn't there? Why are you shaking your head? Ok ok, Eddie Murphy's donkey in Shrek I am not.
4. Audio didn't reveal as much about my personality as I thought it might. Andrew summed this up best:
"It doesn't reveal much about you as a blogger or as a person - it just reveals something about you as a reader."
5. I was too low-tech and MP3 would've been a better format than WAV. Basically I just spoke into my Palm PDA, using its in-built Voice Mail software, and transferred it to my PC. I knew this would produce a lowish quality recording, but Doug Kaye of IT Conversations confirmed this in a comment he left on my first audio post:
"Your WAV was recorded at only 8,000bps/16-bit, so your quality is roughly that of a telephone. (8,000bps sample rate captures audio to ~4kHz.) If you record your WAV files at, say, 48,000bps, you'll get much better audio quality, most of which will be preserved when you compress to a 48kbps MP3. You won't get a smaller file than you have now, but you'll get one that sounds better. Then you still have the option of making an even more compressed MP3, such as 32,000bps or even 22,100bps if you want to give up some quality for file size."
So the upshot of all this? Well I learned a bit about audio and about my own limitations in the field at this point in time. I think I will come back to it later though, when I have the tools to play with it more and make decent quality recordings. For now, I'll stick to my knitting and keep on producing the long-form textual posts that you've come to expect from Read/Write Web.