Social reporting kitbag

Last week I covered what online services are good for covering events online – what is rapidly becoming known as ‘social reporting’, thanks to David Wilcox’s evangelism.

It might also be useful to write a few notes about the physical kit need to successfully report an event online – which can be very, very simple to rather more complicated, depending on budget and how large your bag is.

Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments!

1. Cameraphone

At the very least, this is all you need. A mobile phone that can take photos, and preferably video (hang your head in shame, Apple) and has at the very least email to send stuff is perfectly adequate for social reporting at a basic level.

Using something like Ning to publish social reporting media makes this easy, as it enables you to upload content to the site by just emailing it as an attachment to a special address. If your phone has wireless or 3G built into it, then this is made much easier than using the traditional network!

Using your mobile with other services can make things even easier – such as Qik.com for many phones other than the iPhone (unless you have been naughty and jail broken it…) which enables you to stream live video content to the web, which after ‘transmission’ becomes embeddable just like YouTube, Vimeo et al.

If you have an iPhone you can also use it to make audio podcast type interviews, using the excellent Audioboo service which I also covered last week. David used this at the recent World Entrepreneurs Summit to great effect, as written up by Paul Henderson.

The other advantage of using a phone is that most delegates will have one too – so it is easy to show them how to use it to create online content and get them involved in social reporting.

There are limits to using a phone for this stuff though – you wouldn’t want to live-blog too many events using predictive text, for example!

2. Netbook

The next stage up is to take a little laptop with you. This will help when blogging and will also enable you to perform some basic editing on the content you are producing, without having to lug a big laptop around with you.

I find my Macbook a bit cumbersome, to be honest, and my current favourite machine for this task is a Samsung NC10.

3. Camera

Most times, the quality of a picture taken on a phone is good enough for social reporting. However, you might like to take a dedicated camera along to take some higher quality snaps.

This could be a simple point and click digital camera, or a DSLR if you want even better quality images – it really does come down to budget and how much kit you want to lug around. I use a Nikon D40 which is a fairly basic DSLR but is lightweight and easy to use.

Obviously if you use a dedicated camera, you’ll need a computer to be able to upload your images.

4. Flips

Flips are little video cameras that were made for social reporting. Very, very easy to use, they are also cheap and small. It is probably fair to say that they are also less intimidating that traditional camcorders for recording interviews with delegates.

Flips are so easy to use (press the red button to start recording, press it again to stop and, er, that’s it) that you can also lend them to delegates and get them to interview each other, thus combining some digital enabling with the reporting!

Again, you will need a computer to upload your videos, but at least with a Flip, all the software you need is built in and ready to use.

5. Audio recorder

Mobile phones can be used as audio recorders, as mentioned above, but it might be the case that you want something a little better to record either audio interviews or perhaps to capture speeches and talks that are given at an event.

Dedicated audio recorders come in all sorts of shapes, sizes, and prices. You need to make sure that the one you choose can pick up a good level of sound, and can exclude background noise. It might be best to choose one that can offer a lapel microphone or similar.

I have an M-Audio Microtrack II, though I rarely get the most out of it – perhaps I should read the manual. I have also heard good things about the Edirol R-09HR.

If you are recording audio using a dedicated device, you might need some half decent audio editing software on your computer – Audacity is a good option, or most Macs come with Garageband which is ok.

6. Camcorder

You might need something a little more professional than a Flip camera to record some video footage – perhaps if you are live streaming talks or speeches.

Things to look out for are having an external microphone socket – as audio quality is so important with online video; and it helps if the camera records to hard disk or a flash card, so you don’t have to spend ages converting the video before you upload it.

With this sort of video content, you might need some video editing software on your computer – which can get costly. iMovie on a Mac is probably all you need though, or on a PC Adobe Premiere Elements is reasonably priced.

7. Powerful laptop

If you are getting into video and audio editing, the likelihood is that your Netbook is going to struggle power-wise. Not only that, but you might need the Netbook for blogging at the same time that you are uploading video.

So it’s a good idea to have a more powerful laptop around to do the grunt work. You can leave it uploading, for instance, while you go away and do other stuff.

8. Other bits

There are a few other odds and sods which are vital to bring along to make sure everything goes smoothly:

  • Batteries – especially if you have a Flip or two knocking about
  • Extension lead – for when stuff needs charging up
  • Memory sticks and flash cards – so you can upload from one while creating more content on another
  • USB cables – to connect equipment to computers. I usually take two.
  • Card reader – many laptops these days have these built in, but Macbooks don’t, among others

Mini

I treated myself to a new toy today, a Mac Mini. Here it is, next to the rather splendid curtains in our spare room:

Mac mini

To be honest, I really want a nice big iMac but can’t afford it. The Mini is a nice, relatively cheap alternative. Working on a MacBook all the time really isn’t good for the eyes – and with the Mini plugged into a 20″ monitor, that’s no longer a problem.

Mini and monitor

In terms of grunt, the Mini is slightly less powerful than your average MacBook, but seems to be fine with what I need it for. Editing video might be a struggle, though.