Monday, November 02, 2009

Is Audacity Enough?

I am going to keep this short, cover some technical issues, and attempt to further open a dialog. For more background on what I am talking about, please refer to the previous post - suffice it to say that I want to try and give weblit a voice this holiday season, and I am going to post each night this November in order to sketch out a plan of how we might be able to do it. And please, please comment... it will only encourage me.

1) Do you have experience with grass roots recording? In the past, I have recorded using a cheap microphone and Audacity, a freely available tool which allows you to record, edit and splice mp3s. It is nothing too fancy, but it works, it is cross-platform, and it is available under a GNU GPL license. Ideally, I am thinking that results will be best if everyone involved in a project like this uses the same tools. Please leave a comment if you can recommend a different recording tool, but remember, keep it simple and freely available. I would love to recommend a tool with built in audio processing like compression and reverb, so that we all sound great, but, I don't have much experience in this area. If you do, please speak up.

2) Distribution and contribution: torrent or stream or podcast, or some combination of these... part of the reasoning behind using mp3 as opposed to ePub or PDF is that people already know how to distribute mp3s. People excel at distributing mp3s. I am thinking a torrent would be ideal, but again, speak up. Many options are available. This will most likely become a separate post, but I want to raise the question here. As far as contribution goes, obviously, there is the contribution that the weblit community would be making; in addition, however, I would love to allow donations as long as these 1) are earmarked exclusively for a charitable organization chosen by consensus, and 2) all money raised in this fashion is accounted for transparently. Not necessary, but it would be great to be able to demonstrate value in this way.

3) Length: I am thinking 10 minute stories would work well, and I'm not sure what this would be as a word count. Depends how fast you read, right? But a dozen contributers at 10 minutes a piece is two hours, which strikes me as a reasonable benchmark.

4) Endorsement: again, I am imagining something grassroots and community oriented, however, also something that extends beyond this community. One option would be to try to contact higher profile authors who are also friendly to the creative commons cause for guest spots. Painting with broad strokes here, but this would be one way to reach out beyond the immediate weblit community.

5) How do you define weblit? Additionally, I believe it is important to make available the source text in an appropriate format along with the audio feed, since audio is not searchable, and presents a semantic walled garden. Again, I would like to open this topic up for discussion.

6) Lastly, because I am keeping this short, what's in a name? My initial request is for weblit to share its voice, and I think this is a sufficiently engaging meme; however, code names are cool. In keeping with the holiday theme, I am kind of taken with #weblit-tletown (as in "of Bethlehem"), because it is still tagged as "weblit", contains a truly awful play on words, and as far as code names go, it is sufficiently inscrutable. Or perhaps it's just stupid, and I admit, I have a terrible sense of humour. SO, come up with something catchier.

I really believe that this is a valuable thing to be working towards, and I am prepared to develop this idea for at least the next month, and we'll see where it goes. But please, leave a comment, negative or positive. I want to hear your voice.

4 comments:

Gabriel Gadfly said...

When I was in college, a speech teacher told me that most people speak around 100 words a minute. I tend to speak a little slower than that when I'm reading a work so I can enunciate, so probably down around 80-90 words per minute. That gives us a range of 800 - 1000 words for the total piece, with a little leeway on either side to compensate for people's differences in reading speed. I think that's a perfectly find length for a piece -- short enough to be engaging in audio, but long enough to say something.

Are we looking at 10 minutes as a hard and fast rule, or can it be somewhat blurry? I'd imagine we'll end up with some people who have 8 minute stories and some with 12 minute stories so it'll probably all balance out.

I like the idea of using torrents to push this through -- it's a good, legitimate use of torrent technology (which gets a bad rap of "being only useful for media pirates") and that whole flying-in-the-face-of-convention thing merges well with the spirit of weblit, in my opinion.

piers said...

@Gabriel - my guess it will be hard enough for people to work out the technical side of something like this without having them do retakes because they ran a little over or under. Having said this, you can always just speed up the recording...

~ 1000 wds at 8-12 minutes sounds about right. Also, I will see if I can find some source material on how to dictate clearly and concisely. That's a really good idea. Cheers!

Thanks for the feedback!

Clare K. R. Miller said...

Coming in a little late here, but...

"I am thinking a torrent would be ideal, but again, speak up. Many options are available."

I don't even know what that means. o.0 An mp3 is an mp3, isn't it?!

Anonymous said...

I truly believe that we have reached the point where technology has become one with our society, and I am fairly confident when I say that we have passed the point of no return in our relationship with technology.


I don't mean this in a bad way, of course! Ethical concerns aside... I just hope that as technology further develops, the possibility of transferring our memories onto a digital medium becomes a true reality. It's a fantasy that I dream about almost every day.


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