Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Content Drives Successful Social Media

| March 12th, 2010 | 1 Comment »

I first started working as a journalist in 1976 in Calgary.  I’d been working in radio for a few years, but when I moved to CHQR Calgary in 1976, I became a full-on news reporter, working ‘the street’.

The tools of the my trade were my 1965 Mustang with a giant Motorola 2-way radio strapped under the dash, a pager, a Sony cassette recorder and a bag full of spare batteries.

1976 - self portrait -|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|-|- 2010 - photo by Kris Krug

Stories were my business – and on a good day I’d cover a couple of press conferences, stop by city hall or the police department (the cop shop), and I’d pick up one or two more stories by doing the rounds.

If the newsroom got hold of a good story they needed me to cover, they’d page me.  My beeper would go off and I’d have to find a pay phone to call back to the station.  I’d write my stories long hand on a steno pad, or if I was close to city hall, would pop in there where we had a desk and a typewriter I could use.

Filing stories meant cracking open a phone headset, and with 2 alligator clips, ‘patching in’ my cassette deck audio output to the phone wiring so I could feed clips back to the station.  Then I’d file my story over the phone while they recorded it at the other end.

It’s no surprise that in those days, we didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the technology of delivering the story.  We spent all of our time talking about ‘the story’ itself.

Flash forward to 2010.

I now have a huge collection of digital tools, both software and hardware, that make my 1976 toolset look ridiculously archaic.

These days, it seems to me we’re always talking about the technology.

And why not, it’s exciting.

Particularly in the social networking sphere where things are developing fast and furious.  But it’s easy to get lost in the conversation about the technology, and forget the point.  What are you there to talk about?  What stories are we actually going to tell with all these new tools?

One of the first things I tell clients is that for business, a social media strategy is actually a content strategy.  It’s about opening up and telling the stories about your product, your company, and your employees – really about anything that someone might be interested in learning about.  Interestingly, often this kind of content isn’t found on the company’s own web site.

The second thing I tell clients?

Stories talk back.  Social media is about engagement. Sure it’s ok to tell people about your products of what you’ve got on sale, but you also have to engage in the conversation.  The analogy I use is that it’s like the customer service desk, not the bulletin board.

I encourage my clients to get involved with social media – but – with a couple of key pieces in place. First, we spend some time thinking and planning the kind of stories they intend to share.  Second, that they understand that social media isn’t   ‘set and forget’; they need to be engaged in a meaningful conversation in order for it to provide meaningful results.

I wouldn’t for a minute go back to the dark ages of 1976. I love my digital studio and suite of distribution tools. I love knowing there’s something new coming at any moment.

I would, however, encourage you to remember that without ‘the story’ none of it means very much.


And I would take the Mustang back.


thanks to kk+ for the 2010 photo!

Podcast | Wireless Meets Digital

| February 27th, 2010 | Comments Off

It’s not every day you get to hear insights from a world-famous blogger, leaders in the phone and wireless industry, game developer and a digital entrepreneur – all in the same room, all at the same time.

On February 25th in Vancouver, DigiBC presented a full day of  conversations featuring an international group of thought leaders and innovators, part of the VX Conversations series.

In all there were five sessions presented at the BC Showcase Centre at Robson Square, and I recorded them for DigiBC’s website

This session is titled Wireless Meets Digital, and featured:

  • Robert Scoble, author & blogger,  Scobleizer
  • Chris Langdon, VP, Network Services, Telus
  • Saul Orbach, Founder, COO at Aguru Images, Inc.
  • Doug Whatley, CEO of Breakaway
  • Gregg Sauter, Director, Global Head of Media Partnerships and Content Publishing at Nokia

The conversation was moderated by DigiBC‘s Michael Bidu, who posed the first question to Robert Scoble…


click to play

runs 26:21

Other sessions in the series included:

Collaboration Meets Innnovation
Medicine Meets Mobile
Entertainment Meets VFX/3D
Vancouver Meets the World

Podcast | Alex Beim of Tangible Interaction

| February 25th, 2010 | Comments Off

A year and a half ago, Alex Beim was hoping his company, Tangible Interaction, would be involved with the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. He never would have predicted that all together, he and his team would create 16 different installations related to the games.

Tangible Interaction Design creates full-on sensory experiences people can interact with in the everyday physical world. You can see them at Vancouver House, the BC Pavilion, and if you’re an athlete at the Games, inside the athlete’s village.

When I talked to Alex (on Feb 24) he was sworn to secrecy about yet another Olympic related project, Tangible Interaction’s contribution to the closing ceremonies.

“The ultimate achievement for us is to get someone so engaged with something they kind of want to hang out and enjoy their experience there…that’s why we do what we do”

To find out more about Tangible’s unique work, I spoke with Alex by phone from his studio in Vancouver…


click to play

If you aren’t able to see any of Tangible Interaction’s work at the various locations in Vancouver during the Olympics, you can see videos and photos of their projects on their website.

You can also see examples of their work in this video tour of the Multimedia Gallery at the BC Pavilion, or in this tour with photographer Kris Krug.

Video: Kris Krug at the Multimedia Gallery

| February 17th, 2010 | Comments Off

Vancouver photographer Kris Krug is multi-tasking even more than usual during these Olympic Games, and that’s saying something.

He’s been contributing photos to DigiBC at VX Showcase events, his photos have been featured in the Los Angeles Times, he shares them with the world on Flickr, and at (love the images of the skaters).

He and I got a preview tour of the Multimedia Gallery at the BC Pavilion last week, and I thought it might be fun to turn the camera around on him a bit – and give you a glimpse of kk+ in action…

Get the Flash Player to see this content.

You can find Kris on Twitter, or contact him through

There’s a full gallery tour video here.

The Podcast Desk

| January 3rd, 2010 | Comments Off

20100102_podcastHere’s a peak at my podcast production desk.

Almost all the podcasts I produce for clients involve on-location recordings – so after the sound has been gathered, I spend a lot of quality time huddled with this gear, assembling the material and doing whatever post-production is needed to the audio.

Typically, production involves multi track mixes of eight to 12 tracks, and up until recently I’ve been doing that work with Adobe Audition.

I switched to Pro Tools last year and regret not doing it sooner –  the learning curve is quite steep, but once it clicks, everything just falls into place, particularly if you’ve ever worked in a large multi track studio environment.

I should point out that even though I’m a huge fan of Pro Tools, I still recommend Audion to people – it runs well on just about any PC and is still an inexpensive way to get going with multi-track audio software.   (When Adobe bought what was then called Cool Edit, I thought they’d bury the software, but Adobe has continued to support it)

Here’s the guide to what’s on the desk (click either image to see a larger version).

1.   ProTools 8

2.   Ta20100102_whats_on_the_desknnoy Active monitors

3.   Ipod

4.   Phone audio interface/patch for
recording phoners, like on

5.   Headphones

6.   Microphone

7.   CF cards from Sound Devices field recorder

8.   Pen for Wacom tablet

9.   Mixer for house sound

10.  M-box (audio interface for ProTools)

11.  Wireless keyboard

12.  Must have – coffee

13.  Must have – analog notepad

14.  Midi keyboard

15.  Mackie  MCU  control surface

In the field I use  Sound Devices gear – their digital recorders and field mixers are simply the best. People accustomed to those tiny consumer  recorders find the gear big, but for flawless & dependable field recording, there simply is nothing like it.  I am almost always running on battery power, and I can go for a solid 4 hours without even worrying about a charge – and that’s with a full 4 channel mixer feeding into the digital recorder.  And coupled with custom PortaBrace bags, I can use the stuff in any kind of weather.

Reaching New Audiences

| November 7th, 2009 | Comments Off

Digital content is really a collection of things. More and more, I find myself using them in conjunction with one another, building a series of communications channels that work in different ways, and often reaching different people.


I’m doing quite a lot of work with Twitter now on behalf of clients and on my own websites. I’m using it primarily to:

  • augment posts and keep the site active
  • build (extend) audience

Twitter messages are short – 140 characters – but can link to longer stories as well.

So, it’s particularly good at sending out quick blasts of info like events, updates, and special offers. It’s also great for posting something that might not warrant a full article, but you still want to mention.

Twitter is really helpful in building your community because of the way it connects a variety of people who might not even know about you (through other people who ‘follow’ your twitter feed).

The short story is, I’m really pleased at how effective it is in spreading the word and building community.

If this is something you’re interested in, let me know and we can talk about how it can serve your goals. Fees are based on time spent creating and sending ‘Tweets’ and managing the Twitter account for you.

You can see my full personal twitter feed at and you’ll see a selection of my most recent “tweets” in the right hand sidebar of this page.

Facebook “Pages”

You may have a personal Facebook page, and know how for some people, it’s a key piece in keeping in touch with friends and family.facebook_seadragon

While Facebook isn’t open to the world in the same way a web page is, the fact that it’s a ‘friend to friend’ community makes it extremely powerful, and its usage continues to grow despite detractors who thought it would become passé.

Now you can have a Facebook page for your business.

The functionality is similar to a personal page.  You show up in Facebook search, and Facebook members can become ‘Fans’ of your page.  It’s also a handy place to list things like events, and of course you can link back to your web page.

LIke the Twitter feeds, I’m now managing Facebook pages and content on behalf of a number of clients. If this is of interest to you, please let me know and we can talk about how it can work for you.


Even though traditional TV viewing numbers are down, I seem to be doing more and more video these days. This isn’t too surprising considering that people still consume a huge amount of video – it’s just that now they are watching it online at places like YouTube and SurfTheChannel.


Authenticity is something consumers value more highly then ever.  Videos give you an opportunity to  tell your company’s story and to bring people ‘behind the scenes’.

They’re also a terrific way to show people ‘how to’ do almost anything.

Email me if you’re interested.

You’ll find an example of a simple “how to” I did recently for on their home page.

Recent Community Activity

NVOCA: This week I was invited to be part of a group of people sharing ideas with the North Vancouver Office of Cultural Affairs. It’s a fairly serious sounding organization, but in fact, is staffed by a great bunch of people who are working hard to bring the North Shore’s incredible arts community into the limelight. I’m looking forward to seeing how things unfold over the next few months as they start reaching out into the community.

LoCoBC: In October I was one of the presenters at the launch event for LoCo BC. They’re a new network for small and medium businesses in BC. I put together some screencasts of the organizer and one of the main presenters – you’ll find that on the VanGoGreen website.

brainpicker_ituntes_300Just for Fun

I always have a few side projects going on, where I try stuff out and play around.

I firmly believe that ‘doing’ is better than endlessly ‘talking about doing’.

Here’s the latest, called BrainPicker.

Screencasts for BasicGov now on YouTube

| May 5th, 2009 | 1 Comment »

I’ve just finished some video work for BasicGov, a really interesting Vancouver based company that’s addressing the needs of small and medium sized local government all over North America.
These folks are clever.

Using an SaaS (Software as a Service) model, they’re providing a package of admin and organizational tools to local governments.

Typically, these tools are only available through expensive enterprise software – and the little guys find themselves making do with patched together solutions for tracking things like building permits , code enforcement, or planning. BasicGov’s approach seems even more relevant given the current economy.

What these guys have done is distill the key services required and created a web-based solution. Their clients have no technology overhead to deal with, they pay on monthly subscription basis, so they can start without spending heaps of cash, and all they need in place is an internet connection and a browser.

The goal of this project was to provide a high-level overview of the suite of products – essentially an introduction to the concept of SaaS without ever using the acronym, and how these products help solve specific challenges faced by small governments.

BasicGov, wisely, is using YouTube as a key platform to distribute these videos.

It’s fitting, considering their own model.

Just like their own service, using YouTube allows them to get all the benefits of a large scale distribution platform, with zero overhead. The idea is to use the videos as an introduction to the services, not as a ‘how to’ per se – though we may do some of those later.

Creating the videos gave me an interesting insight into their product as well. The team sat down with me and walked though each of the 3 key modules. I took notes, but mostly I was just trying to get oriented. I’ve never worked in local government, so a lot of the details were new to me.

Often with this type of software, a casual observer (me) will find it difficult to retrace their way through the various functions. I was surprised when I logged on back at my office, and discovered I was able to work my way through all the pieces with ease. Which of course was one of the goals BasicGov laid out when they started.


We worked through an iterative process, using storyboards to identify key screens and copy.

I often use Final Draft A/V for this kind of thing, but in this case, I opted for Story Board Quick. I like being able to generate HTML and FLASH versions of the boards – I work virtually most of the time and it makes sharing the info with the client quick. I also strip out the copy and provide the client with a clean copy deck – often this is the easiest place for them to identify changes.

For screen capture, I knew I wanted something other than Camtasia. It’s not really a Mac or PC thing, I work with both (I do all my audio on PC). Given that I planned on editing on Final Cut at high resolution, I wanted something clean and lean that made it easy for me to get the screens I wanted, with the zoom factor I wanted, etc.

I opted for I Show U HD. It plays nice with Mac and was rock solid. It was a real bonus being able to select from a variety of resolutions and frame rates – I imported all my clips directly to FCP.

Through the process I created rough cuts for the client to review. These I provided to them in Flash Video – using Adobe’s CS4 media encoder. I was then able to load them up on a server for them to grab and review at their convenience. What this meant was that we were able to move through more iterations faster than would have been the case with ‘in person’ reviews.

Once we finalized the copy of flow, I created a ‘finished’ voice track to replace my working tracks. I record all my audio on a Sound Devices 702T through a 422 field mixer. Then I haul the audio into Adobe Audition for editing, and master with T-Racks 24, then haul the mastered files back into Final Cut.

Because BasicGov wanted to take advantage of YouTube’s HD options, everything was captured at 1280 x 720, and the YouTube versions, both regular and HD, looks great. You can see them here:

The team at BasicGov was a real delight to work with, and I hope we’ll do some more projects together soon.


Ecofont Helps Save Printer Ink

| December 22nd, 2008 | Comments Off

As a consultant, I prepare a lot of documents for clients. Actually, even before they become clients, I find myself preparing and printing documents as part of whole process of determining whether we’ll work together.

Despite the fact that everything is prepared digitally, and often sent digitally, printing hard copy just hasn’t gone away. Even if I send only a digital copy, inevitably a copy is printed. It’s not just habit – most people find it easier to review and mark-up hard copy in advance of a meeting.

I do use recycled paper in my printer, and when ever feasible I print double sided – but I came across an idea that makes perfect sense, and one I’m going to start using right way.

It’s a font created in Holland that uses less ink.

It’s called the Ecofont, and it maintains readability, but because the characters aren’t ‘solid’, it uses less ink when printing.


Here’s the info from the folks who created it – a Dutch ad agency…

The prints we make for our ‘daily use’ not only use paper, but also ink. According to SPRANQ creative communications (Utrecht, The Netherlands) your ink cartridges could last longer. SPRANQ has therefore developed a new font: the Ecofont.

“After Dutch holey cheese, there now is a Dutch font with holes as well.”

Appealing ideas are often simple: how much of a letter can be removed while maintaining readability? After extensive testing with all kinds of shapes, the best results were achieved using small circles. After lots of late hours (and coffee) this resulted in a font that uses up to 20% less ink. Free to download, free to use.

One of my great frustrations is that I’m still printing loads of documents that end up going into recycling. So, I’m going to start using the Ecofont in my printed documents starting today.

Interestingly, on the screen at least, the cut-out dots don’t really show up until you get to a fairly big size – around 24 px and up.

I think, just to help spread the word, I’ll add a “made with the ecofont” in the footer.


James Glave Podcast

| September 27th, 2008 | Comments Off

A veteran writer turns his obsession with detail into a building project.

In his new book, Almost Green, James Glave tells the story of building a green studio in the front yard – and changing his life forever.

Recording at James Glave’s eco-shed on Bowen Island, this podcast was recorded before the book was published, a of sorts.


click to play

Read more about James Glave and how to buy the book on his web site,

photo courtesy James Glave

Robert’s notes…

I’ve known James since the mid-90’s. We both fumbled our way onto the then new world wide web – he was with Vancouver Magazine and I was with CBC Vancouver.

I always looked forward to seeing a new magazine article by James – they were smart, witty and superbly crafted. He brought the same high quality to his online work; it stood out then, and it stands out now.

When he left Vancouver for San Francisco and Wired News in 1997, many of us were envious of his determination to carve out a living ‘on the internet’. He became a regular guest speaker at the Simon Fraser University summer web publishing courses, and he regaled us with news from the front lines of life in Silicon Valley.

I’m glad James is back in Vancouver – and thrilled to see him bringing outstanding journalism and his determined voice to stories about the environment and sustainability.

While we wait for his book to come out – do check out his mini-book Buck The System on his web site – add your contribution to his PayPal fund – and enjoy the articles he’s distributing online.

The podcast with James Glave runs: 25:30 and was originally produced for

podcast ISBN: 978-0-9809054-3-4

© Bigsnit Media Consulting Inc. 2008. Podcasts are available for re-broadcast by contacting

Canada’s Big Media Doing Great

| August 2nd, 2008 | 1 Comment »

I know with the long weekend at hand, you’ve been wondering about the state of media in Canada.

Rest easy and enjoy that extra day off.

Big Media in Canada is doing just fine.


The CRTC today released its Communications Monitoring Report. In the past the Commission published one report on the state of broadcasting, and one on the telecommunications industry, and this is the first of their ‘converged’ reports – presumably to reflect the state of the industry. The report makes it clear that the Canadian broadcast sector is doing just fine, despite dire warnings of its impending demise thanks to the internet. The report also shows just how big a role the internet plays in our every day lives and consumption of entertainment. Here are some facts pulled from the CRTC report.


  • Revenues for private commercial radio stations increased by 6.2%, from $1.4 billion in 2006 to $1.5 billion in 2007.
  • Commercial television revenues increased 4.3%, or $218 million, from $5 billion in 2006 to $5.3 billion in 2007. This was largely due to increased subscriber revenues of $152 million.
  • Revenues for specialty, pay and pay-per-view television and video-on-demand services increased by 9%, rising from $2.5 billion in 2006 to $2.7 billion in 2007.
  • Revenues for private conventional television broadcasters went from $2.1 billion in 2006 to $2.2 billion in 2007, an increase of 1.3%. During this period, revenues for English-language stations grew by 2% to $1.8 billion, while those for French-language stations fell by 2% to $381 million
  • Online advertising continued to experience growth, with spending rising from $900 million in 2006 to $1.2 billion in 2007.

English Canadian use of…

  • RADIO: 18.3 hours of per week
  • TV: 26.8 hours of per week
  • INTERNET: 13.4 hours per wee


  • The number of Canadians who have watched a video online has more than doubled over the past three years, with user-generated content being more popular than professionally produced programs.
  • Among the more popular online activities in 2007, 36% of Canadians watched a video, 16% listened to a streaming radio station and 17% downloaded music.
  • 11% of Canadians reported downloading and listening to a podcast on either their computer or an MP3 player, an activity that is seen as a complement to conventional broadcasting.

It may just be a case of bad timing, but just a couple of weeks ago, a CBC submission to the CRTC more-or-less argued Canadians aren’t using the Internet for entertainment. (you can read the CBC’s full position here)

Today’s CRTC report shows that we are in fact using the internet for entertainment. One of the most popular online activites happens to be…watching videos.

At the end of the day, regardless of the facts, the CBC’s argument in it’s submission seems to be that since it hasn’t figured out how to make money online, online shouldn’t be considered a business opportunity for Canadian broadcasters.

Given that traditional broadcast is still showing yearly increases in revenue, I’m not sure they’re in any hurry to try figure out how to make money online, despite the fact that Canadians are consuming a huge amount of content online.

To my mind, that bodes well for smart nimble companies that can jump into this obviously ripe market while the ‘big boys’ sit back and wait for it to be a more predictable business opportunity. (cross posted here)