Posted tagged ‘Google Voice’

First 30-day ideaLab project completed

May 5, 2011

For my first 30-day ideaLab-JRC project, I have partnered with local retirement communities and senior centers to gather oral histories from area senior citizens using’s iPhone “record and publish” application in person and recorded phone conversations using ipadio’s three-way calling and recording capability.

Topics have included conversations on faith and spirituality, living with someone with Alzheimer’s disease, motherhood, genealogy, immigration, fleeing one’s country of origin during the war, raising children in the 1960s and 1970s, and local politics.

My goal was to train volunteers in the community to record the interviews and provide the photos, so staff only has to grab embed codes and receive photos, and then upload to our website under a “Podcast” drop-down menu. This, however, has been a huge challenge. So far, I have two volunteers working with me in Saline, but I would like to have more. My editor in Chelsea and Dexter has done two, and is looking for volunteers. My editors in Manchester, Ypsilanti and Belleville will be making contacts with senior communities soon to launch the project in those communities in the next couple of weeks, also building a volunteer base.

I have spent every Wednesday for the last four weeks at Brecon Village retirement community or the Saline Area Senior Center interviewing at least two residents each week, with 14 recorded. My volunteers have done an additional three and my Chelsea/Dexter editor has done two. The profiles include photographs of our subjects.

My 14-day goal was to get the same process going in Chelsea and Dexter with help from copy editor Erica McClain. This has been achieved, but at a slower rate than I anticipated.

At 21 days, I had planned to implement this in Milan. I have conducted one interview there, and have had volunteers supply me with names of potential subjects. I still need to round up volunteers to conduct interviews so I am not doing it all.

At 21 to 28 days, I was to set up a volunteer orientation session in Saline, Milan, Dexter and Chelsea to train community volunteers. I have found that my two volunteers have been able to learn it on their own. However, I have created a presentation that I can use for training purposes and it’s posted here on my ideaLab-Heritage blog on WordPress.

My longer-term goal was to implement this project in Ann Arbor, Manchester, Ypsilanti and Belleville. These editors have assured me that they plan to do so in the next couple of weeks.

I have utilized our ideaLab iPhone for this project to record the interviews and shoot the photos. I’ve used DropBox to move the photos from my phone to laptop computer. I have managed the activity on my ipadio account, where I’ve gotten the embed code to post the podcasts on

Metrics: The project has generated 6,250 listens. One podcast, shared with a sister publication near Philadelphia, helped drive a lot more traffic than most, with that podcast generating 1,279 listens. The average audio recording generates 250 listens. Most vary from 630 to 65. They have been promoted on our website, Facebook, Twitter and this blog.

I have trained 10 staff members on and Google Voice, the technology I picked from the ideaLab tool list, and posted my presentation on collecting audio to enhance storytelling on my ideaLabHeritage blog. I have also solicited a list of more staff to train at a sister publication, The News-Herald in Southgate, and plan to set up training soon.

What’s next: My next 30-day project will be to learn how to create photo slideshows with audio, Google maps, and my tool to learn will be Kaywa QR Code, so readers can scan the code in print to be taken to the slideshow online. The goal is to have the audience provide the photos and text from Memorial Day activities in our communities.

My presentation on Google Voice and incorporating audio

April 24, 2011

As part of my ideaLab charge, I chose to learn about Google Voice and teach it. I also have been working on incorporating more audio using the website to record phone or in-person interviews. Here’s the presentation I’ve developed to train fellow reporters. I will be training my own staff Thursday and will make arrangements to train reporters at The News-Herald and the Press & Guide in Dearborn in the coming weeks.

More experimentation with Google Voice

January 20, 2011

It has been a rough couple of months as I’ve had to replace four reporters. The process of soliciting resumes, reviewing resumes, interviewing candidates, checking references and making the offer is very time consuming. Combine that with vacation time for myself and covering for staff while they were off, as well as short deadlines and days off with the holidays, and I am behind in what I’d like to do in the ideaLab. With that said, I’ve renewed some of my earlier experimentation with Google Voice.

A podcasting project in cooperation with the Saline Area Historical Society is in the works. I am just waiting on scripts to be written based on research by the historical society on 10 historic places in Saline. I’ve been told those should be ready by mid-February, and then we will meet with my ideaLabHeritage citizen volunteer, Eastern Michigan University professor Michael McVey, to record the oral histories. The plan is to edit the audio using the free software Audacity and couple the audio file with a photo slide show of old and new photographs of the historic sites.

This project has me thinking of a simpler way for us to produce audio, and share more stories and information. I think Google Voice can accomplish this. For example, we could invite area senior citizens and residents at retirement homes to call our Google Voice number and record their stories. This could be based on anniversaries of historic events, Memorial Day or other themes. I could put together a questionnaire and they simply read the questions and then answer. They have a three-minute window to do this.

Beyond recording local history, we could do this to produce Q&A’s to complement stories online. For example, maybe we have produced a feature story on a local artist. The story is online with a photograph and a video interview of the artist demonstrating her craft, and then there is an audio clip of her answering questions about who is the most influential person in her life, the name of the artist she most admires, the tool she couldn’t do without, her favorite artistic medium, etc.

Since I’ve been working out at the health club every day for the last five months, I’ve noticed some people listening to their iPods and reading the newspaper while on the treadmill or stationary bike. I’ve also brought the iPad for my workouts and seen others using them to listen to music, check their Facebook news feed and read the morning headlines. This got me to thinking about incorporating an audio function on every story for people who would rather listen to their news than try to read it in print or on the iPad. So, I called our Google Voice number and read a story, then downloaded the MP3 file and uploaded it with the story online. I also had our 14-year-old movie reviewer do the same for his review of “I love you Phillip Morris.” Readers now have the option to click the audio player leading the story and listen, rather than read it. Check it out.

Those are my efforts for the month and I hope to step it up more. The next step, however, is to train the new staff on everything I’ve learned in the last five months, from to editing audio files to Google Voice and other efforts.

Google Voice and Experimentation

November 28, 2010

November has been a month of exploration and experimentation, but not as productive in terms of learning and teaching as past months in the ideaLab.

I don’t know if I can say attending a talk and book signing by former Newsweek Bureau Chief, AP correspondent and CNN reporter Tony Collings can be part of my official ideaLab endeavors, but I’ll say it was because he did share some insights about how the industry has changed for the good and bad. His talk at the University of Michigan’s Hatcher Graduate Library was interesting and insightful. I’ve embedded a couple of video clips.

I’ve also uploaded three podcasts from a cemetery tour in Milan in October, and our web department added a drop-down menu under the “News” category for podcasts. Every time I add a podcast, I include the label “podcast” in tags, so it will live there, on the website, permanently. We will continue to populate the category as we embark on our podcasting project in cooperation with the Saline Area Historical Society, as mentioned in a previous ideaLabHeritage post. Here’s the link to the podcasts.

Also this month, and to be honest, it’s something I just started exploring this morning, is Google Voice. If you haven’t checked out its capabilities yet, I suggest you do. It has potential, but I am still working out the bugs. My idea was to create a drop-down category on our website called Community Voices, and then posting a question or topic to discuss each month. For December — if I can work out the bugs — I’d like the category to be Holiday Messages. The idea is to have readers call my Google Voice number, state their name and share their holiday message. Google will translate that into a text file that can be shared online.

Sounds great, right? Some newspapers have a speak-out column in which they encourage readers to leave voicemail messages, instead of writing a letter to the editor, and then print those. This could serve the same purpose and provide an automatic transcript. However, the translation to text is not very good. For example, I read the following, word for word, over my phone after calling the Google Voice number that I set up:

Heritage Newspapers is putting together a Community Voices project. Every month, we will ask members of the community to call a Google Voice number and leave a recording on a particular topic or discussion point. The first category will be Holiday Wishes. Call 734-531-8774 and leave a holiday message for the community. This could be a season’s greeting, a statement of what you’re most grateful for this year or your wish for the new year. The messages will be shared on our website for everyone to hear. We will add a new category each month. So, check back on our website to view the category and then call 734-531-8774 to share your thoughts on the topic at hand. Our hope is to share the many voices that make a community and bring the community together on a particular topic.

The translation from Google was:
Hearage newspapers as putting together a community voices project. Every Month. We will ask members of the 288 to call it google voice number to leave a recording on a particular topic of discussion. The first category will be holiday wishes, call (734) 531-8774 and leave a holiday message for the community. This could be a seasons greeting. A statement of what you are most grateful for this year, or your wish for the new year. The message is will be shared on our website for everyone to here. We were adding new category each month. So check back on our website to view the category and then. Call (734) 531-8774 To share your thoughts on the topic at hand. Our hope is to share the many voices that make each me and bring that you need any together on a particular topic.

I was also hoping that Google Voice could provide a mp3 file of the voicemail message and we could share those files online as the responses. I still need to read up on it, but I don’t think that capability exists. If you know of another way of achieving this goal, please let me know.