Kodak Zi8 review

I recently got a Kodak Zi8 video camera. It’s like a beefed up Flip and I think it should be considered the default choice for social reporters everywhere.

I did this video review of it, which turned out even ropier than I thought it would. Still, I’m learning.

Ironically, the review was recorded using a Flip. Maybe that’s my excuse?

Nick Booth has just published a nice post, where he recommends the Flip over the Kodak for ease of use.

Social reporting at All Together Now

I’m looking forward to tomorrow, as a gang of folk from DIUS‘s engagement team (led ably by Steph) and I will be spending the day reporting from the All Together Now event in London.

Hosted by Channel 4, DIUS and BECTA, the event’s convener, Steve Moore says:

the focus of this event is not specifically about next media or future technology it is instead focused on what people – particularly young people – are doing now with the tools and platforms that exist NOW! In my view the scaffolding has come down. We are the tools to connect with millions of people, access to most of our accumulated knowledge with two clicks of a mouse and ability to give voice publicly to our thoughts and ideas without permission. The egalitarian ideals that drove the development of networked computing that helped foster the internet and helped created the Web have now been matched by an infrastructure of massively popular technologies. Altogether Now resolutely focuses on what people are doing with these new affordances, how they bringing themselves and their peers into experiments in what is possible and all of this is happening now. It is teenagers that are at forefront of these developments. It is students who are pioneering and making amazing stuff so this event is about watching, listening to what is happening out there right now. Participatory culture is alive, vibrant and it’s implications are at once profound and present.

It should be a great day. We are going to be videoing, photographing, twittering and blogging away like nobody’s business, and all the results will (wifi permitting) be published on the event’s social network as soon as we can.

All together now

You are of course welcome to join the network and add your stuff, or if you prefer working in your own space, just tag your content with atn09 and we’ll pick it up.

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

Event reporting toolkit

David has written about covering events again as part of his investigation of the role of the social reporter. He writes:

So on the one hand it is more difficult to charge for the logistics, and on the other hand it is less easy to keep the content within the event. You have to work harder to provide value. That can be done – but it means organisers will have to be skilled on two fronts. They’ll have to be really good at the physical organising and also the briefing of speakers, facilitation, documentation and other content – not always the case. And in future they’ll have to blend online and offline activities. When this is done well – as I think it was for 2gether08, and will be this year – then it’s worth the price.

I’m doing some work with David at the moment, plotting and planning how best to squeeze online coverage in; not to mention some other similar work which I’ll hopefully be blogging about soon.

The tools that are available to use are legion, and not a lot of them cost very much money. In this post, I’ll go over some of them and what their uses are. It would certainly be good to hear from others what they find useful.

1. WordPress

A self-hosted WordPress blog is probably the one constant for me. Better to be self hosted than on WordPress.com because you need the flexibility of being able to add your own plugins, or edit the theme, to match exactly what you want. I used WordPress in this way at Cisco08, IDeA Performance and the Social Media Exchange. You’ll notice that there isn’t much that’s bloggy about those sites – it’s key to draw content in from others.

Another advantage of using WordPress is that others can have blogging account and can give it a go – great if you want the delegates at the event to get involved.

2. Twitter

Twitter happens at conference now, whether those in charge approve or not. A fantastic way of arranging an instant back channel of discussion, it’s also fabulous to connect people in attendance with others. It’s important to get a common tag agreed in advance or as early in the event as possible to stop the conversation getting fragmented. Hashtags used to be important, but with the advent of Twitter Search, less so.

3. Ning

Each time I start to use Ning, I like it a little more. At events, Ning can be used to kick start some connections and conversations before they even start – a great way to begin an event by hitting the ground running. Ning is also brilliant at getting content online – people can blog, use forums, upload photos and videos (the latter two by mobile phone, too!) and import content from elsewhere.

A Ning site can therefore become a clearing house of content, from which you can pick and choose the best stuff to go on your main blog, for example.

4. Some kind of aggregator

It’s still nice to have a dashboard of what’s being said online. I’ve used Pageflakes a lot, others Netvibes; but both of those services have not been without their issues of late. For sheer laziness I would now recommend Addictomatic, which just automatically puts your dashboard together for you.

5. Streaming video

This isn’t something I tend to get involved with, but streaming video live from events is pretty cool, and can be made really easy using tools like Ustream and Mogulus. FutureGov used Ustream to great effect at their recent event including the use of live commenting on the action.

Don’t forget social reporters and/or delegates can use their phones with Qik or Bambuser to stream their own stuff live as well.

6. Other video and photos

Other video might be taken by recording vox-pops on a Flip, or using a service like the wonderful VideoBoo on a Macbook. The three services I tend to use are YouTube, Vimeo, and Blip.tv. YouTube has the bigger community and better recognition. Vimeo has the best quality pictures and the nicest interface. Blip is good for longer video. I don’t think any one service can really be described as better than the other right now.

Is there anywhere other than Flickr to put photos?!

7. Live blogging

To be honest, I tend to find that blogging using WordPress is fine, and just publishing the post at the end of a session works well. I’ve never used anything like Coveritlive – can anyone comment on its effectiveness?

8. Huddle

Just to get everything organised in the first place, Huddle is invaluable. I’ve never been a big Basecamp fan, largely because of its awkward interface and odd use of language, but Huddle is pretty much perfect for me.

What have I missed? It would be good to hear from others what they like to use.

Convening through reporting

David Wilcox has published another great thought-piece on social reporting and exactly what it is and where it fits:

I’m delighted to find there’s increasing interest in social reporting around events … which may start with an enquiry about how to capture some video interviews, but can lead to a discussion about how an organisation may network with its members, clients or customers.

David, along with some colleagues, is building up some resources on social reporting, including a wiki and a toolkit.

He also mentions some of the stuff I have been doing:

Nevertheless, more and more corporate and public sector event organisers are interested in social reporting, not least through the efforts of Dave Briggs, who is a real wizard with different social tools. I must compare notes with Dave on his use of Ning for UKGovCamp09, where all participants get a profile and personal blog with ability to contribute their own photos, videos and forum comments. It is a great environment within which anyone attending an event can become a social reporter, learn about social tools, and develop new relationships online that build from connections made at the event.

What Dave is starting to do, I think, is show a way forward for social reporting as one way in which an organisation can use its events to develop the new convening role that Clay Shirky talked about in his interview with Amy Sample Ward. My analysis here.

The use of Ning to build up buzz before, during and after an event was really brought to my attention by Tim Davies with the Youth Work Online event and network. That really showed what could be done by giving people a place to meet and talk before turning up to an event, and to report and develop ideas afterwards. As much as I would like to take the credit, I really can’t!

However, especially with UKGovWeb, the people participating are already heavily networked and web-savvy. It’s also a bunch of people who don’t have a comprehensive, open online community to join, so I really hit the ground running in a way that I don’t think would happen with a different group.

Elsewhere on the social reporting front, I’ve done three bits of work using a modified WordPress template which aggregates different feeds using tags on services like Flickr, delicious, Twitter and others. It’s not perfect, but it worked well with Cisco, IDeA and the Social Media Exchange.

The beauty of this approach is that it isn’t ‘just’ an aggregator – being built on WordPress there is a blog there too, so if others want to be able to contribute by blogging for the first time, in a ‘safe’ environment, they can. Using something like PageFlakes to map what’s being said on the web misses this learning opportunity.

(Incidentally, I’m in the process of rewriting the social reporting WordPress theme entirely. It’s going to be a lot slicker, and will be much easier for people to use – telling it what tags to track will be a matter of setting an option in the WordPress admin panel, likewise changing basic colours and a logo.)

I think, in the end, that it comes down to what the purpose of the online reporting is. Some people just want a record of what happened, some people want to build something that people will use again and again in the future. Either way, I think it begins to blur the edges of an organisation just a little bit.

More IDeA social reporting

…is happening over at IDeA Performance. This is a great initiative by IDeA, trying to open up the training and workshops they provide to anyone with an internet connection.

If you, or anyone you know, is interested in local government performance, do check out the content we are putting up, leave a comment or tag your own stuff with ideaperf.

Social reporting and learning at the Social Media Exchange

Tomorrow I will be hanging out with loads of cool people at the Social Media Exchange, which has been marvelously organised by Jude Habib and Mark Ellis at sounddelivery.

I’m helping out by running a couple of sessions, but also by lending my social reporting/learning WordPress theme, which I have spent today tweaking and filling with content ahead of tomorrow’s event.

The whole schedule has been added to the site as blog posts, so you can track who is presenting what and when by clicking the links on the schedule and speaker pages.

Sadly the home page dashbaord is bereft of live Twitter and Blogsearch updates as the server the site is hosted on didn’t seem to like pulling content in rom elsewhere with RSS. But there are links out, which people should be able to find easily enough.

One thing I am looking forward to is the amount of video that will be going on, thanks to Matt Waring and his team at Best Before TV, who are helping to cover the event with their VideoBoo package, which turns any Mac into a portable VideoBoo(th). We’ll get as much as we can embbed on the blog.

My two sessions are WordPress for Good, described as a masterclass (which means I get to talk a bit) and the other a surgery on blogging (which means I answer questions). I’ll be putting any slides and other media output up on the Social Media Exchange site as and when it gets created – just check out my tag page.

(Other great sessions (amongst many others!) will be those from my good friends Nick Booth and Steve Bridger.)

Of course, I did create the WordPress for Good microsite to house plenty of resources that people could use after they have been suitably inspired by my usual combination of mania and enthusiasm for all things WP. Thanks to all the stuff people have suggested, I’ve got plenty to be getting on with. Another late night, then…

Making Council meetings social

Council meeting room
Image credit: tricky

Tidying up a few bits on the IDeA Performance site, and seeing Steven Tuck’s comment on my previous post about it, I thought about how these techniques could be used in different situations within local government.

After all, here is a way of making a face to face event more accessible for people that can’t attend, and as a way of drawing together all manner of online resources for people to share and use.

How about using this kind of online social interaction in council meetings? I’m thinking it could probably be best applied to Overview and Scrutiny meetings, perhaps, but any kind of meeting where taking in views and submissions from people with an interest would work well.

What do people think? Could this work?

And does anyone out there fancy trying it out?!