Audio editing on the move

I've been preparing three different talks which I'll give on three successive days next week. Here's the schedule:

Wednesday: At the International Council for Information Technology in Government Administration (ICA), in Guadalajara, Mexico.

Thursday: At the STIET (Socio-Technical Infrastructure for Electronic Transactions) Program, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Friday: At the Interdisciplinary Committee on Organizational Studies (ICOS), University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

The UM is my alma mater, so it's a real thrill to have the opportunity to speak there.

When I blogged about preparing talks back in June, John Mitchell suggested something I had never tried before: dictation. With three different talks to juggle, I was ripe for a new and better way to organize my thoughts, so I gave it a whirl. It's worked out pretty well.

Because one of the talks involves a speculative line of thinking that I haven't fully articulated before, I wanted to have it mostly written in advance. But I dictated the first draft into my Creative MUVO on a couple of long walks, then wrote it out with revisions.

The other two talks involve more familiar material, but I used dictation to rehearse it. And then yesterday, on another long walk, I came up with a slightly bizarre but remarkably useful solution to a problem.

The problem was that I had more than an hour of audio that I wanted to condense into a list of talking points that I'd write out as private cues for the talk. It was a nice day, and I didn't want to spend my time on the computer, I wanted to be out hiking. Could I listen to the hour of material, and dictate the condensed talking points, while on the move?

I'd tried something like that before, but the device wasn't up to the task, and I suspect no handheld recorder would be. Say the raw material is in a series of files, 1 to 47. It's easy to listen to them in sequence, but awkward to interrupt the sequence, switch from playback to recording mode, dictate a note, then switch back.

Then I had a brainstorm. I had recently bought a second MUVO for household use. (The combined cost of both is only what I paid for the iPod Mini which I now almost never use.) Why not use one MUVO for playback and the other for dictation?

It worked like a charm. I held the playback device in my right hand and listened through headphones, I held the recording device in my left hand, and I worked through the material dictating my talking points. In the course of a two-hour hike I'd edited an hour of audio down to five minutes of talking points. Later it took me ten minutes to transcribe them.

There weren't any people on the roads and paths I hiked, which is probably a good thing because I'm sure it looked pretty weird. But it was effective, and it was a great change of pace from sitting and typing.

More broadly, it's interesting to think about ways in which portable audio playback devices can (and should) morph into production tools. For example, it would be really handy to be able to mark ins and outs while listening to audio on the move, for later use as sound bites.

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