Thursday, October 05, 2006

Important Newsflash: Written Word Now Available Online

If someone gives me 20 pages of anything to read - pretty much anything in English, whatever the subject, I can skim it in less than two minutes and decide whether I want to read it. If I do decide to read it, I already know where the major points are and can pay special attention to them. If I make a mistake and read a part too fast I can flick back to the unclear section as soon as I know I need it, in just a fraction of a second, re-read it and then find my previous place. It's not quite that easy on a screen, but there's usually a "find" tool that will get me back to it in a couple of keystrokes.

It's a great system. It's one of the major strengths of the written word. The modern world is built on this feature of text. I know I'm not the only one who reads like this.

Recorded speech doesn't work that way. It takes as long to listen to it as it took to say, and if you lose your place you have to think fairly hard to get back to the point where you lost track. In many cases, you just can't. It's gone forever. (I can't tell you how often I've reached out to my car radio to hit the "replay the last 30 seconds again" button only to find there isn't one - It is only available on my PVR.)

So why is so much of what's Out There (on the Interwebs) in Podcast-like form these days? Someone recommended September 26th's Uplifting Thoughts on this Blog, TED (Technology Entertainment Design). I clicked there and it's a 20 minute interview with some guy. Do I have 20 minutes? No. Will I remember to click it again when I'm doing the washing or showering the lizards? Hardly. Can I load it into some form of zippy iPoddy thing to listen to in the car? Probably, if I had one and if I had ten minutes to do all the stuff to get the interview in there.

Although I'm sure some would argue that a Nactual Recording Of The VIP's Voice has extra archive/historical value, I suspect people use recorded material on the web just because they can nowadays, and also because they don't have the time to transcribe it into written form to make it accessible to people like me.

Just for me, then, can I recommend people to use transcription software to post a simultaneous text file of the interview? It probably won't be a very good transcription, but I'm used to reading uncorrected OCR errors and they don't slow me down. If I got to a stage where I wanted clarification, it would mean I was hooked. If I were hooked I'd listen to the whole interview.

And you could put paying banner ads above the text! <---Incentive!

It's just occurred to me I could have had it playing in the background while I wrote this rant. Too late now. My suggestion still stands.

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