Saturday, April 28, 2007

RSS in Plain English

I'm at time hesitant in crossposting, as I have the impression most people who read my blog, read almost the same blogs I do. Only when I read an interesting Dutch blogpost, I'm confident of the value of crossposting in English, as I'm assuming your Dutch is terrible.

I found this video from Common craft via Nancy White's blog. It's explaining what RSS is and what RSS readers can do to make you faster in keeping up with your favourite websites and blogs. It's really simple and good, and can be used for training and introductory purposes. I'm happy to crosspost it because I also liked the refreshing way the video was made. Instead of using a computer screen, print outs and drawings were used. The vingers make it lively. It's a nice way of making an instruction video without having to show up with your own face (something I like to avoidO. It's a good habit to point to the code of the video in your blogpost for crossposting too (since I have an account on, it was clicking a matter of clicking on share, my blogname was already known to and within two seconds I could repost it).

Common craft explains: There are two types of Internet users, those that use RSS and those that don't. This video is for the people who could save time using RSS, but don't know where to start. They intend to make a commoncraft show so there's more coming and I'm going to subscribe to it.

Monday, April 23, 2007

How to vlog a meeting or presentation?

I developed a 12-step vlogging process to help a network in Ghana (GINKS) produce an ICT4D stories blog. They were amazed that it is so easy to do, easier than maintaining a website for instance. We did two videos in the office together for fun, then did two video interviews jointly. The last two videos were published on their own. You can see them all on the GINKS blog. We are still figuring out how to link the blog to the website as a page of the website. Thanks to Jay Dedman and Beth Kanter for their tips along the way! there is an IBM podcast too on how to get started with online video. In it, they also make the point that it is very easy to get started with video editing software which is already may be on your computer (like windows moviemaker) which is of reasonably good quality. In combination with the easiness of uploading it to various site, and the possibility of tagging and blogging these video productions, it is a powerful way of bringing people closer together.

Step 1: Attend the meeting or listen to the presentation you want to vlog
Don’t video the whole meeting or the whole presentation. It could become boring and it will be time-consuming for people who were not around to watch it. Hence you have to attend the meeting and listen carefully to what is said. After knowing the details of the meeting or presentation, you can formulate 1-3 interview questions. The questions should lead the interviewee to expland on the core of the meeting, or rather to zoom in on one interesting detail. The interview question can either capture the core of the presentation, or one aspect of the discussions that take place.

Step 2: Choose your person(s) to interview and formulate your interview questions
If you vlog a presentation, it is clear whom you are going to interview, but if the meeting is attended by various people you have to make a decision whom to interview. Choose a person with an interesting opinion or controversial view, who can explain his/her view passionately. Basically the way this person talks will determine the quality of your video. If you have a lively meeting, you might also try and interview several people with the same question. You can have one or several questions. When you try and cover a presentation, you might need 3-4 questions and your video might end up in 3-5 minutes. When you have a specific topic, one question might do, and you may have a video of less than 1 minute. Western people are often more to the point and can talk about a topic without introduction. With people in the south, you might need to plan slightly more time and it may work better to ask introductory questions. You will learn what works by making lots of videos.

Step 3: Ask the interviewee(s) for 5 minutes of their time for a video interview and brief them about the process
It is unlikely people will say no, when you ask them for an interview of 5 minutes. You may brief him/her about the procedure (we will go to a quiet place, I will ask you the following two questions, etc) so that it is clear what is expected of them.

Step 4: Decide on the place of the interview and go there
If you do the interview straight away on the spot immediately after the meeting, it will be more spontaneous than if you do it later and the person will have the topics of the meeting or presentation fresh in mind. But you may have to find a relatively quiet place and good background. It is important to have light on the spot or on your back- so you are not experiencing backlight. Some rumour on the background is OK, as long as the interviewee is clearly audible. It might even give a bit of ‘colour locale’. If this doesn’t work, you may have to make another appointment. When you make an appointment, you can influence the place of interview more and you can choose a light and quiet place. Think about the light too. You can open curtains and put on the light.

Step 5: Do the actual interview and video it
You can do ask another person to ask the questions, or you can do it yourself. If you ask the questions yourself, the interviewee is more likely to look into the camera, which gives the feeling of direct contact. Be clear to the interviewee when to start, and be clear to yourself about the procedure. Are you going to include your questions in the video or will you add them later as text? You might tell tell the interviewee to begin with their name/affiliation and rephrase the question too. If you are not using an external microphone you have to be really close to the interviewee. Andy Carvin has developed some interview tips.

Step 6: Upload the video to your computer
You have to transfer the video to your computer using a cable. A wizard will help you to select the videos from your camera. Make it a habit to delete ‘old videos from your camera, and to upload and process the video as soon as possible after shooting it, otherwise you risk to copy a lot of videos which you don’t need. Make sure you know where you copy the video file (eg. under my videos) and give a logical name.

Step 7: Edit the video
Even if you don’t need to edit the video itself (eg cut part of it), and you don’t want to add any titles to it, you still have to convert the video into the right format. (if you use windows moviemaker from .mswmm to .wmv extension)

You can use one the following free programs for editing:
Windows movie maker
Virtual Dub
Avid Free DV

Step 8: Host your video on the web and post it to your blog
There are lots of video sites where you can open an account and host your videos. The advantage of hosting your video on the web is that you don’t use space on your computer, you can access it from anywhere. But also important, from these sites, it is easy to crosspost it to a blog (making it into a vlog when you upload videos regularly). When you use a popular site, you may have lots of viewers too. Some of the site where you can host your video are:

I don’t know about the last 2, but in, youtube, and google you have the option to add your blogaddress to your account, so that you can post your video on your blog with one click. In you can even upload the video to your blog at the same time that you upload it to It will show the video ‘embedded’ in your blog. Embedded means that you see the picture of the video and start button so that readers and start the video from your blog, without having to go to the site where the video is hosted. It will look like this:

Step 9: Write a summary of the interview on your blog (and indicate how long the video is)
When readers see the video on your blog, they may not know how long it is and whether it is interesting enough for them to watch the whole video. You can edit the blogpost and write a summary of the video content. This will help readers to decide whether it is worth to watch the video. It will also help people with lowbandwidth who might not be able to watch the video to access the information by simply reading the text.

Step 10: Advertise the video if possible
You might announce a specific video to people who might be interested. Untill you have the idea that most people are subscribed to your vlog, you may post it to relevant Dgroups or send it to individual people. Don’t announce every video in the same Dgroup though, but if you have a special one, you might announce it and explain why it is special.

Step 11: Send the link to the interviewee and ask for feedback
This is important, because the interviewee has given you his/her time, and might be curious to see the result (and proud!). He/she can also help you to send the link to other interested people. When there are comments on the blog you might alert the interviewee again.

Step 12: Wait for compliments
(or ask for feedback if you don’t get any)
You can use the references to your blog to see whether other site have referred to your video. You can see the number of times the video has been viewed on the site where you host your videos (, youtube or any other host).

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Read my blog in chinese and french language!

Since I couldn't read my own blog in China, I'm happy to discover that some people are reading my blog in Chinese language! I found the french and chinese translations of my blog when I looked through the referals to my blog. Both persons used google translations. I can't say anything about the quality of the chinese translation. The french translation of the heading is quite good, but the quote has become really hard to understand because I used a Dutch text...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Meeting Chris Lunch on participatory video

Last month, I was too busy to blog some of the meeting sI attended and it seems late to blog them now. So let me be a good blogger today and blog the meeting I attended today with Chris Lunch from Insight on participatory video organised by CTA in Wageningen. (and yes, in Wageningen you always meet some old faces from the good old days like Huub from World Report who still has the same sense of humour so that was fun!).

I have been busy with vlogging, but had not explored the link with participatory video, hence I was looking forward to this meeting. My assumption about participatory video was that you give the camera to farmers and other people at community level so that they produce their own video. Though that was Chris' definition too, others used a much wider definition of participatory video in which you let people participate in the choices filmers make like topics, subjects, storyboard editing, etc.

The process of Insight's participatory video process can be summarized as follows:
  • Participants learn video skills
  • Facilitators help groups identify and analyze important issues
  • Short video messages are directed and filmed
  • Footage is shared and watched
  • Learning and exchange is facilitated
  • Communities have full editorial control
More in the training book developed by them which can be downloaded from their site.

The advantages of participatory video mentioned (between the lines) were that it can help people to focus and articulate their opinions, you have a concrete product, which can be shared. It can foster consensus building, and it helps identity building, people can be seen more easily as an expert. I would have liked to articulate better how it can work to enhance learning and shift power relations. In some of the examples, farmers were listened too because they had a video. Otherwise they would have been ignored. In that sense, it can work to increase inclusiveness of development processes- but that has to be facilitated in a skilled manner. I suspect Chris is first and foremost a good facilitator who happens to use video as an instrument. I would like to become more skilled in knowing when to use participatory video, when an online discussion or any other means to stimulate creativity in a group process. I do believe participatory video can open up people's minds because it introduces variety in means of communication (as you could use other channels).

Various filmmakers shared stories of how they used to carry kilos of equipment, and that the new camcorders have made participatory video possible. I shortly presented my vlogging process (will blog this in my next post). I am convinced that this can be a next step in video technology, which can also work to empower the 'hard to reach' as they were called.

Jay Ded works on an interesting video project from India, which he announces here. He believes there is a great hunger to learn more about lives in other countries (especially in the south). Amazing how some of the world are disconnected; the vloggers, the participatory video people, the filmmakers. So thanks to CTA for connecting some of us today!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

How do I write for my blog?

I was tagged again for a meme by Beth. Beth is a crazy blogger (in terms of number of posts, not content) and I think I would have missed the tag, had I not traced it through the references to my blog on my sitemeter. The meme is 'how do you write for your blog'? It's the first meme I participate in with full enthusiasm. I was once asked the question how I could write so casually in a public blog, and I replied that I'm actually writing for a small group of people (Beth being one of them) and kind of forget that it's public. With the immense multitude of blogs I have no illusion that too many people are going to read it anyway.

One in a web2.0 call we were asked to summarize blogging in 3 words and I said: very public learning. Later I thought it is more thinking outloud (though that's only two words). I think the blog has become my place for thinking in text and pictures (and sometimes video), which is open to be read by others. But first at foremost, it is for myself. When I blog about an idea, it creates room in my head because I have it in my blog. Writing it down also forces me to formulate my ideas more clearly and sometimes I force myself to write some kind of conclusion. In that sense, it helps my learning process by forcing me to think through the ideas I have. I do use my blog a lot as my personal archive using the search function!

So how do my blog ideas start? It may that I read an article which has some interesting point of view which rings a bell, it may be something I experience, or a conversation I have. Always it is somehow a new insight or connection I make. Somehow blogging an article is safe. I do feel at times that I am not blogging my most important thoughts because you don't want to expose someone, or you can't write directly about clients/colleagues. I do want to move this a little as I think it will improve the relevance for others and myself at the same time. For instance, I asked a friend whether I could blog a story she told me and she agreed (coming to you soon). I'm also thinking of changing the title of this blog. I started with the idea of a topical blog, because I didn't want a personal blog and I wanted to learn more about CoPs for development. In the meantime, this topic starts to limit me in my writing as some posts seem too irrelevant for the topic (like this one).

People I would like to tag include Denise Clarke (as we discussed exactly this topic in Accra), The knowledgecafe guys, Wouter Rijneveld (I'm curious about his blogging process) and Anecdote (I'm curious how they are dealing with a corporate groupblog). And let me tag Bicyclemark (my latest blog discovery).