Using Technology to Save Global Languages

We’re taking a quick break from our usual social media and communications strategy posts to look at an amazingly cool use of technology.

Today I stumbled across Endangered Languages – an effort by the folks at Google to help preserve the over 3,000 languages around the world that are on the verge of going extinct, threatened with extinction, or at risk or becoming extinct. According to Google, 50% of the languages that are in use today are expected to vanish off the face of the Earth by 2100 – silent forever, echoing in the past. And these languages aren’t just located where people might expect them to be, in small third world nations (though this is just as true there), but throughout the United States and Europe as well.

Check out Google’s video about the importance of a project like this, and then check out Endangered Languages for more info.

A Quick CES Note

A quick note to PR pros and publicists out there. If you work with a very high profile client, and your client is announcing a new product at a trade show – don’t schedule the hour-long autograph session before the event announcement, unless you want a lot of pissed-off reporters at the end of the event.  I was at CES for a couple of days this week, and a friend and co-worker of mine got stuck in the cluster around a Justin Bieber “technology” announcement, and all I can say is the Biebs’ PR team really needs to learn some actual PR and basic event planing principles.

Apple, Heal Thyself

Well it has been quite the week for corporations in my little part of the online sphere.  Earlier this week my good friend Will has his car towed by an Albuquerque towing company of meth addicts because he accidentally parked on the wrong side of a McDonalds and “McDonalds Parking Enforcement” officers had his car towed away.  Parking enforcement officers… yeah really.

(BTW, this is the same lot I’ve parked in many times to eat at a different restaurant – come tow me, bitches.)

But more importantly, this has been one of the weeks where Apple has crossed over the line of corporate paranoia and let their cyberpunkish “Corporate Overlord” mentality show through.  And from a PR standpoint Apple’s not looking too great.

Jesus Buddha Christ, Apple. Really? Let’s break this down:

  • A tech blog gets a hold of your super secret next generation iPhone that was lost at a bar,
  • And then returns it to you after reviewing it
  • (Which happened after you denied the prototype’s existence),
  • Then you send your super secret “Apple Force” to the journalist’s house demanding to look around
  • (Which he says “hell no” to.  Makes sense.)
  • And then you have the reporter’s house busted into by the cops and multiple computers, et al “taken for examination.”

Let’s see, did I miss anything?  Nope, didn’t think so. I’m just surprised that Apple didn’t hire a private group of mercenaries to bust this poor guy’s door down.

Wow Apple, you have really opened yourself up to ridicule at the least, and a potential lawsuit on the more serious end.  (and if the EFF and other technology or media non-profits don’t sign on to object to this kind of treatment of a journalist, then y’all just need to pass your 501c3 cards forward because y’all are dismissed.)

But in true Apple form, Steve Jobs has penned a letter about… Apple’s problem with Adobe’s Flash??  It’s like Steve-O really thinks that by ignoring the problem, or dictating the terms of engagement, he can control all of the coverage he gets.  And right on cue, noted tech journalist (and Steve Jobs apologist) Walt Mossberg will pen a column decrying Flash (and asking why the hell Team “Apple Force” didn’t tase the entire Gizmodo staff over and over).

So this is a PR and tech blog.  What advice would I give Apple if they asked?

Well, this being Apple, they never would because in their minds “The Jobs” can’t do anything wrong.  That said, I’d tell them to cut this crap out.

  • Drop any charges,
  • Get the police to turn over all equipment taken from Jason Chen’s house,
  • Replace any broken or damaged equipment on Apple’s dime,
  • Pray that Apple doesn’t get sued,
  • And one more thing, stop acting like jerks.

I guess Steve-O really hasn’t learned anything about tact (or new media) from the Think Secret lawsuit. Jon Stewart is right, chill the hell out Apple.

(And before Apple Evangelists start typing a response about how I’m some Apple hater, this post, much like this video in years past, was completely created on a Mac.)

Snoochie Boochies.

Praising, and not Burying, Foursquare

This isn’t a post designed to slavishly worship at the altar of Foursquare – the app that allows you to broadcast your location to everyone following you on Twitter, Facebook, and… oh yeah, your Foursquare account. And the jokes about telling people when they can break into your empty home have already been made, so I won’t make them here.

(And I’m sure this post has been written many times before by other smarter people than I, but bear with me, please. )

In fact, and this may surprise you (and to bastardize Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar), “I have come here today to praise Foursquare, not to bury it.” Foursquare could be one of the great saviors for many small businesses that always appear to be under threat.

By keeping an eye on who checks in at a business via Foursquare, savvy businesses are already able to offer special discounts, or menu items (in the case of a restaurant), etc. to people following their business.  But what about those people who are walking by a business?  Since most of these smartphones are (or will be) equipped with GPS (how else can you run Google Maps and Directions?) it should only be a short jump until these phones can signal that they are in the proximity of your business. Then you do the same thing, offer discounts, freebies, etc to swing by.

How will the person behind the counter know if the discount is legit? You might be able to send a picture of a QR Code or Bar Code for the specific item in question, in order to try and minimize people gaming the systems with bogus tweets/etc. At the end of the day though, let them work the system a little bit, the end result will still be sales.

The most important aspect to this will be creating a system where people can opt-in, instead of pushing your message to any phone capable of receiving a text message. Because at that point your message becomes nothing more than spam and will drive people away.

Monitoring Foursquare for check-ins, and Twitter for tweets, and responding appropriately will help you to attract more customers, and to handle customer service issues. Look no further than ComcastBonnie (@comcastbonnie on Twitter) for an example of those tech savvy peeps doing it right.

It’s called “You”Tube for a reason

I was thinking about this post while giving a presentation in class this evening. We had an open ended assignment where each person presented on a topic related to the mass media. Being interested in online communications, I focused on Web communications by mass media outlets. That got me thinking about bloggers (which I wrapped up the presentation with) and how people in my profession should look at content creation vs. pitching to bloggers.

A lot of PR peeps are looking at how to pitch bloggers and other A-list social media mavens instead of working towards creating their own content.This is fine, but it’s as if the mindset of PR people around the globe continues to be:

“I’m in PR. I’m used to pitching people, sending stuff out. I must pitch the “media.” I’m not going to create my own content. I don’t shoot video, and sound like I gargled with rusty razor blades.”

Trust me I know where you’re coming from. I don’t have that creamy radio voice either and am more “Body by Buddha” than “Body by Jake.” Ya know what, that doesn’t matter. It’s all about authenticity. It’s about your company becoming the media outlet, instead of waiting for reporting from the media which may never come. It’s about PR person as civic journalist (or corporate journalist) than traditional “pitch man.”

(This also matters to you and your personal brand. You are your own Hollywood director. But wunder-dude Chris Brogan has a lot of great articles on this. I may give my own humble take later (but read Chris first))

Your company should become part of the conversation, not just treat bloggers/podcasters/et al as one more media outlet to just pitch to. Remember, it’s called “YOU”Tube for a reason. Use it to create your online brand, then your company will piggyback on the “you” brand (if you identify yourself as working for that company).  Then other bloggers might get interested in your product/organization.

And your first efforts don’t have to be Hollywood-esque. Just get some practice time in with your camera and some software. Here’s a little footage of me practicing around with my Flip Video Camera and the Sony Imagination Studio software. There’s also more relevant footage (PR wise) that I shot for work located here.

Good on Ya, Apple, Inc.

Just to reinforce my love of technology, and that i’m not averse to Apple, Inc. I bumped into this story while on Twitter.  A high school kid had emailed Steve Jobs (and just how in the heck did he get THAT email address, I’ve gotta ask) and asked if he could get the college educational discount for the latest copy of Final Cut Studio.  MInd you, not a free copy, just for the $600 or so discount (still willing to pay $700 for it).

Well, this email got forwarded to Richard Townhill, the director of Pro Video Product Marketing for Apple, who emailed the kid back and asked for his address to send him a free copy of the software.  How cool is that!  Apple, Inc gave this kid an early Christmas, and created another evangelist to boot. Not too bad!

HT: aGEEKspot

iLife for PC Review: Sony Imagination Studio

(Update: Sony announced the release of Imagination Studio Suite 2 this week.  I’ll be looking it over in the coming weeks and posting an updated review here as soon as it’s done. – Benson)

The Christmas season is quickly closing in on us.  While the current economic conditions might be forcing you to take a second look at what you might include on your present list, if you or someone who’s been nice this year are interested in creating your own podcasts or video pieces then you might want to check out something softer on the pocketbook – the Sony Imagination Studio.

A little while back I talked about Sony’s new Imagination Studio Suite, offered exclusively through Dell’s Web site.  (Now available at Sony Creative Software’s site, among other places) Dell seems to be moving to the fore on providing PC consumers with a version of Apple’s iLife. First they offered something from Adobe that could be installed on certain XPS systems.  Now they are offering Sony’s answer to Apple’s popular suite.

Since writing that post, it has become the most viewed piece on this site, once again hinting to me that there are a lot of people out there interested in finding an answer to Mac fans love of iLife. Also, a lot of people have clicked through to check out the software on Dell’s site.  I don’t know if anyone purchased it, maybe Dell would have that info (probably not).

So I decided to give this suite of programs a brief run through.

I had my first run in with the program suite at the 2008 New Media Expo, while hanging out around the Sony Creative Software booth.  Voxana and DJ Papi Love from the AcidPlanet Web site were handing out demo copies of the the Imagination Studio Suite to the attendees.

Voxana and DJ Papi Love
(Me with Voxana and DJ Papi Love from AcidPlanet at the 2008 New Media Expo)

I brought some of the CDs back to ABQ and handed them out to my co-workers and family members.  While I don’t think any of my co-workers have picked up the programs yet, I’ve been able to give them a bit of a shakedown, as part of my ongoing search for a PC equivalent to Apple’s iLife package.  Sony’s Imagination Studio Suite offers many of the same PC programs as iLife, except for iWeb – but as I’ll point out here, between free blogging sites (such as WordPress or Blogger) and Facebook/MySpace, there is no need for iWeb.

And away we goooooooo…..

Sony Vegas Movie Studio Platinum

Sony Vegas Pic

Vegas Movie Studio is the video editing software included in the Imagination Studio Suite.  The layout of the editing suite is different from Apple’s iMovie – Vegas Movie Studio has a more traditional, linear video editing layout than iMovie does.  Vegas Movie Studio has also proven to be a more powerful video editing program than the built in Windows Movie Maker.

In Vegas Movie Studio, the user has separate tracks for multiple video and audio tracks.  You can have individual tracks dedicated to dialogue, background music, special effects in addition to multiple video files.

Importing the audio and video elements to a project were easier to import into Vegas than iMovie.  With iMovie I found that if I didn’t import just the right file, in just the right way, while hopping on one foot under a waxing moon and preparing a chicken blood sacrifice, the video file wouldn’t import correctly.  While with Vegas, a simple click on Project > Import Media opens up a menu showing the importable files.  For digital video capture, a quick click on the Capture Video button calls up Vegas’ capture menu.

I found Vegas to be very easy to edit with, I used it to trim and edit video footage of both Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s visit to campus.  After editing the video, I was able to export the final video directly to either YouTube, or Sony’s own AcidPlanet.com podcast/video cast/music site.  A pop-up screen asked for all of the necessary information to log into either service and input all of the necessary information for the video submission (login and PW, name, description, tags, etc.)

One of the things I had a problem with in Sony Vegas was locating the trimmer, so I could slice video files as necessary without bringing in multiple copies of the same file when adding cuts to the project. This could be user error in part, but I notice in Premiere Pro it’s part of the lower right hand menu, which makes it very easy and quick to make the necessary slices. Update: This was user error. All you need to do to trim down your video in Sony Vegas Studio is place your marker where you want the video to be cut, and hit the “S” key. That’s it!  How freakin’ easy is that?!?

Cinescore Studio Plug-In

Vegas Movie Studio, in the Platinum Pack, Platinum Pro Pack and Imagination Studio Suite, comes loaded with the Cinescore Studio plug-in.  Cinescore is Sony Creative Software’s soundtrack creation software, and Cinescore Studio is a stripped down version of the program. It’s not an actual program in Imagination Studio, it’s a plug in with Vegas Movie Studio.  All you need to do is right click on one of the audio tracks and click “Insert Generated Music” to activate the plug in.

Cinescore Pic

From this menu you can select the type of music you wish and a number of variations of the music you want to include in your project.  In the next screen you can select the length of your music file, the composition style and more.  Cinescore Studio will then insert it into your movie project.  This is a great way to get some quick background music for a podcast or movie scene.

When you are working with the audio section of your project, you can right click on any of these tracks and the “Edit Selection in Sound Forge Studio” appears.  Clicking on this allows you to edit the dialogue in Sony’s Sound Forge Studio.

DVD Architect Studio

DVD Arch Pic

Sony’s DVD Architect Studio is the company’s DVD Menu creation software.  Since most people will be uploading videos to Web sites such as your blog, YouTube or AcidPlanet, unless you are creating DVDs for a film project, DVD present, etc. there is a minimal need to use this software.

Should you need DVDs for any reason (family gatherings, etc), DVD Architect Studio is a good choice to create your DVDs.  There are many different DVD menu themes for you to pick from, and more are available from the Sony Creative Software Web site.

Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio

Sound Forge Pic

One of the programs in iLife that I find to be very beneficial is Garageband, Apple’s audio editing, looping and podcast creation program.  Trying to put so many things together in one program can lead to a bit of clutter on the screen, and trying to edit interviews in Garageband leaves these weird bubbles of text in the file that you have to remember to pull back together for a coherent podcast or audio file.

However, Garageband does have a specific setting when you want to record a podcast, with tracks set up for voices, jingles, additional recording, and a window for you to drop and drag artwork for your podcast.  And the Garageband browsers are great when it comes to locating files not only by name, but type of file as well.  This probably comes from providing so many loops for your specific software package (such as Apple does).

Sony’s got two programs that fill this need for PC users.  The first of these programs is Sony’s Sound Forge Audio Studio.

I’ve primarily been using Sound Forge Audio Studio to edit podcasts at the university, and clean up audio in some of the video pieces I’ve been working on.  Editing files in this program are as easy as highlighting a bit of text and deleting it, or cutting and pasting the file, or adding various effects to your heart’s content.  The best way to figure out which effects you want to use with this powerful program would be to play around with a test audio file and the included effects.

As with Vegas Movie Studio, you can publish your files to the Web, using Sony’s AcidPlanet Web site.

The other half of this tandem of programs is…

Sony ACID Music Studio

ACID Pic

ACID Music Studio is the stripped down version of Sony ACID, Sony’s industry-standard music looping software.  Loops are just short music files that sound like one continuous piece of music if they are repeated.  When you start combining multiple loops, such as a drum beat, a couple of guitar loops, you can create your own music.

Some of these loops are available on CDs or download from various locations, from many musician stores to Amazon.com (where you will find some pretty good deals) to Apple (if you have Garageband) and Sony Creative Software (which, as expected, work well with ACID).  ACID Music Studio comes with a large library of loops at your fingertips after you install it. If you are interested in music loops, a Google search for “Music Loops” will give you many more answers than I can give you right now.

I haven’t spent as much time working with ACID as I have been with Vegas and Sound Forge studios.  But I like what I have tried so far with the program.  Adding loops is as simple as drag and drop and then using a “brush”-like tool to repeat the loops in each track.  I’ll add another update once I have more practice with ACID, and possibly a couple of completed songs on the site.

Photo Go

Photo Go Pic

Photo Go is a cool little program that allows you to keep track of your digital images and do some basic editing to them.

Puppy Pic

(Awwwww, I always told her she’d be in pictures)

You can color correct images, crop, rotate, remove red-eye, and correct brightness and contrast among the editing features.  You can’t sharpen your images, but this is something that can be taken care of using Windows Live Photo Gallery or Picasa 3.

One thing that would be nice would be a way to export your pictures to Flickr or Google’s Picasa.  There are simple ways to work around this.  Flickr Uploadr allows you to drag and drop pictures to upload to your Flickr account.  Or, should you prefer using Windows Live Photo Gallery, you can upload your pictures to Flickr as well.

And then there’s iWeb

I’ve checked out iWeb on the Mac.  It’s a cute program that gives you quite a few pre-built templates for various needs for beginners or those not interested in Web site creation.  Honestly, it’s easier if you go to WordPress.com (where this blog is hosted) or Blogger.com and create a blog for your basic web needs.  You can use your blog as your web page, kind of a “Grand Central You” for your content creation and social media needs.

From your blog page you can link to your Flickr account, YouTube account, upload your podcasts, etc.  This serves as a better replacement for your probable web content needs than iWeb.  And should you need a Web page presence, you can always check out the templates at Open Source Web Design.

What about help?

One of the things I like about Sony’s content creation software is that at startup you can allow the “Show Me How” menu of tutorials to pop up, in case you have any questions or want to learn more about what you can do with the software.

Show Me How

These tutorials will take you step-by-step through how to do each of the tasks, with a window going from one part of the screen to the next, highlighting each task and showing you exactly where to click and what to do next.  The lessons are quick to follow, not taking more than a few minutes each.  I’ve found them invaluable when working with the software.

All in All?

For the price, anywhere from $150-$200 depending on the current discount available at Dell.com, the Imagination Studio Suite fares very favorably when compared to Apple’s iLife suite.  Having used both (I have a Mac laptop at work) I find that I actually prefer using Sony’s software.  That might be because I’m more used to a Windows set up.  This suite of programs give you all but one of the options of iLife, and as I’ve pointed out here, you don’t really need iWeb.

For years PC users have heard Mac users talk about iLife and how there’s nothing on the PC side that can compare with it and how beautifully integrated the programs are, and how iLife is one major reason for people to switch to Mac from PC.  There’s a little bit of arrogance behind those statements, but for a while it was hard to locate a simple suite of programs that worked together in an integrated fashion for the PC side.  These programs were available separately from Sony Creative Software, but individually they would have cost more than the suite.

If you’re a fledgling podcaster, or YouTuber, or movie maker – or even not so fledgling – you’ll find these programs useful to your endeavors, for the price.  It’s the first step before you move on to either the Adobe Production Premium Creative Suite (another set of programs I really recommend when you want to take the next step to more professional tools) or Sony’s professional level tools – Vegas, Sound Forge and ACID Pro (which I haven’t tried).

Rating: 5 rugby balls out of 5.