Android audio editing apps: no joy for Journos?

Android robot logo.
Image via Wikipedia

I’m currently putting together stuff for my Digital Newsroom module for this year.

One of the things I ask the students to do is to record and edit a short audio vox-pop*.We have a number of audio recorders of varying levels of ‘quality’ at the Uni and access to Audacity and Adobe Audition. But I don’t stipulate what the audio should be recorded on or how it’s edited. My line is always ‘if you can do it and submit it by banging nails in to a piece of wood, go for it”.

I want the students to explore the range of resources that are out there and I’m always keen to add to the list of possible tools and resources they can use. So Uber blogger and font of endless multimedia journalism info Mark Luckie couldn’t have timed his latest post better.

The post highlights 3 Unique ways to record, edit, and publish your audio. It includes Monle, a four track editor for iphone/touch which is useful if you use you phone to record your audio interviews. Which got me thinking about the students who might want to use their mobile to record audio but don’t have an iphone or touch.

Android audio apps?

I see a lot of iphones at work but I also see a serious number of Android based phones so I thought I would do a quick scoot around and pick one or two apps that none Apple users could consider. And the result…



Move along now, nothing to see.

Well, OK, there was one; ringdroid which, on the surface, looks pretty good. But that was it.

From my reading round its seem the stumbling block is  a dodgy audio api on android – delays etc. But I was genuinely surprised that there wasn’t at least an attempt to try. Maybe it’s too niche!

Iphone/touch is the platform of choice

I’m nervous of the eulogizing that goes on of the iphone/touch as the ‘tool of choice for multimedia journalists’ but I have to say that as an all in one device (the new touch in particular) it’s looking pretty good.

If you know about a good audio recording/editing app on Android or other mobile platforms for that matter, please let me know.

* Before the anti-vox brigade have a go I should say that this is part of a series of competency ‘tests’. I want to be sure that the students have exprimented with recording audio and vox is an easy ‘reason’ to record audio.

Update: has a nice article looking at the Monle and Hindenburg audio apps.

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Google translate: Sports Journalism in any language

Don’t be a Google Stranger (Image by Jacking.c via Flickr)

Amongst the marking and other stuff a few things have been pushing the ponder button. One of the the things was the recent updates to Google Translate.

Even if you haven’t used the tool itself you will have probably spotted the odd option to translate search results. If you use the Google Toolbar you may have even been surprised to be offered a version of the page you are reading in its original language.  It’s like a lot of things on the web these days, a background thing.

But I have been pondering it lately for two reasons. The first comes from the increased amount of contact I have working journalists who are getting to grips with using search tools and other online stuff in a more structured and journalistic way. Sitting in a room full of journos and seeing the mixture of awe and surprise at just what you can do with an IP address these days, for example,  just underlines how much of this stuff can pass you by if you don’t have a bit of headspace to explore.

The second is thinking about how, when training, I can make this as relevant to all the flavours of journalists I come across. It’s often the case that after a session of looking at searching council websites and the like, sports journos feel like there isn’t much in it for them. Most team websites have no RSS and the online presence for many official bodies is pretty slim. I get much the same from the Sports journalism students I teach.

Searching in another language

Of course, when you get on to community stuff, forums and blogs etc. some of the sports journos are pretty adept at finding and working with those communities. But I’m always on the look out for stuff for that search part of what I do that will peak their interest in the basic stuff which, I think, is really valuable. Google translate does just that.

Here’s an example picked at random.

The rumour mill throws up that Italian football coach and radio pundit Nevio Scala is pitching for the Scotland Manager’s job.

Interesting stuff. What’s this guy about then? We could push a few searches through Google:

Starting with  “Nevio Scala” or building on the search with information about his other clubs. e.g “Nevio Scala” +Parma or “Nevio Scala” +Spartak will turf up a lot. But it’s in English and this guy is Italian. So what do the Italians say about him?

We can push Google to search Italian sites by selecting Italian in the Language option of the advanced search. Which gives us some lovely results with the Translate This page option. Click there and we get translated results.

The language option in Googles advanced search
The language option in Googles advanced search

We can take that step further with Google’s Translated search option.

All you do is tell it what you are looking for, what language to search in and what language you speak. Then tell it which language you want to search in. The results are slightly easier to digest as you can see the options side by side. We can use the search to dig a little deeper.

A translated search from Google
A translated search from Google

Back to the Scala example. I want to delve in to the fan chat during his short spell at Spartak. Setting the results language to Russian means we can plug in a search like  Nevio Scala” Spartak OR Spartacus +forum and throw-up forum discussions around Scala on Russian football sites.

Of course doing this is not just limited to Sport. It’s not uncommon to find someone from your patch appears in the foreign press.  Take “meredith kercher” OR “Amanda Knox” as a  translated search in Italian as an example. But given the international impact of sports, especially as the world cup comes in to view and I think sports journos have plenty to play with here.

Translating from the Toolbar

For me though the real flexibility comes when you use the translate options in conjunction with the Google Toolbar.  By installing the toolbar you can translate pages on the fly.  That makes searching in another language a lot easier.

I tried the same search for “meredith kercher” OR “Amanda Knox” in Google news but with the location set to Italy.  All the results come up in Italian but a quick click of the translate button and I have a better idea of what I am looking at. Then I can continue browsing in (Googles best approximation of) english.

Using the pages

Using the toolbar translation also means you can take advantage of the basic functions on the page.

Google TranslateUsing the Nevio Scala” Spartak OR Spartacus +forum search I found a Spartak forum which I wanted to search for any mentions of Scala.  I could find the search box but sticking Scala in won’t work as it’s English not Russian cyrillic. So I used the Google translate tool to convert Nevio Scala in to Russian (Невио Скала) and went directly to the original Russian version of the football forum. The toolbar translate option converted the page in to english so finding the search box was easy. Then I plugged the Russian version in to the search box.  Bingo.

Ok, so the translation is pretty hokey sometimes and we need to be mindful of the different standards of journalism (legal and ethical) that we might encounter. But it’s a great opportunity to get a different perspective. I think this is especially important in sport. There is always the other team and if they happen to be from another country then it would seem a shame to miss their perspective.

The next step

The next step is to integrate some of this stuff in to your “passive aggressive newsgathering” by finding the best in foreign language sites and then using a site like Mloovi to translate the RSS feed. Then you really are doing international journalism.

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Interesting and motivating stuff

I’m involved in two days of an exciting Meld project and as part of that I am showing ( or may mention) a number of bits of technology and services. I needed a place to put the links to access them and thought I would share them here.

It’s all stuff that has made me go ‘wow’ and/or made me think ‘that would be great for journalists if…’. Of course there are lots of other things – the blog really helps collect and remember them – so if you have things that fall in to the ‘must see’ inspiration. I’d love to see them.


I love this stuff as it offers an interesting way for ugc to be contextualized and then inhabited. Nodes of content – photos – that each has their own story used to build up a bigger picture. The very definition of the way CJ should work .

A couple of links here to the original Photo tourism applet and then the Photosynth version in a similar vein. Also a neat demo of the Seadragon technology

and the TED presentation by Blaise Aguera y Arcas around Photosynth.

360 video

I love the Google street view stuff and this builds on the concept. Immersive media have a very impressive looking bit of hardware (although low-fi versions are around) and a few examples that, perhaps, hint at the uses a journalist may find in interacting with this stuff if not generating it themselves. (look about 2mins in)

News/editorial games

The Political machineOkay, breakout with news headlines may make MSNBC’s claim to have invented a whole “newly invented genre of ‘news gaming'” a bit hard to swallow. But it is good fun.

Games have started to seep in to journalism consciousness. A version of the Neverwinter nights has been used to train journalists and the games ideas that sprang from that project

But it isn’t all just retro-gaming or journalism training. Editorial/issue games are more and more visible.

Whether it’s highly polished stuff like The Political Machine or influenced by single issues that resonate like Police brutality, September 12th or the raft of issue games from Persuasive Games.

There are loads of serious games out there covering the kind of stories and issues that journalists are. This is where I really think we need to be exploring much more.

Wii news channel

Speaking of games. I know there are other consoles out there but I just got a Nintendo wii. The news channel is pretty straightforward in what it does (streams AP content) but the way it does it is pretty cool. Putting journalism in an environment (like throwing the digital newspaper on the gaming lawn) seems to me an area that is being neglected in the msm’s attempts to ‘own the platforms’.

And the old wii, like the iphone and PSP, is getting platform friendly content.

Digital narratives

The Work of Jonathan Harris

Interactivity and multimedia are part of the reason why the web has become so popular as a journalism platform. Seminal work like OnBeing and The Final Salute show just how good journalists are at telling stories and giving stories a voice. Of course other storytellers have embraced the platform. The work of Jonathan Harris is a particular favorite of mine. Lots to learn and learn from in all areas.


Time Tube

Journalism is getting in on the act with visulaisation whether its infographics with an extra edge or projects using Google maps, tag clouds or something fancy like the Spectra Visual Newsreader app (Kudos to MSNBC for getting another mention).

General shots of stuff.

News Toolbox: 30 ‘news’ websites

In the UK we seem to have a bit of a plague of TV programmes offering the 100 best of this or the 100 worst the other. So I’m a bit nervous of anything ‘listy’. But Mashable has a list of news sites they call a News Toolbox,  that I think is worth a look:

Everyone knows about the big news sources such as Google, Yahoo, BBC, and so on, but there is a whole world of customizable news sites and news aggregators out there. We’ve gathered 30+ sites to help you wade through the enormous amount of information that comes your way on the Internet.

Check out Mashable’s News Toolbox 

Free online screen capture tool

som2.gifHere is a great online app that lets you capture you screen, audio and all, and save it to a quicktime file.

It’s called Screencast-o-matic and it works across most operating systems as long as you have the right version of Java. The quality is slightly reduced to help playback but it’s a handy , cool, little app.

(thanks to Brad Linder for the heads-up)

Google maps follow up.

UPDATE: Mark Hamilton has been playing with the links and got it working in wordpress using a plugin that allows you to use Javascript in a post. He has a map up based on his favourite coffee shops. Great stuff.

If you are looking to get more control over your data then there is a great tutorial on Google’s Code site that tells you how to use php, mysql and javascript to create a database driven XML feed that populates a google map. (I used it to create the map below). If that sounds complicated then don’t worry. The tutorial is really easy step-by-step stuff.

My google maps post from yesterday generated a bit of interest and one or two questions. In particular how to include your map in to a wordpress post. has a post/tutorial on this using Iframes as a solution to including your mashup.

You need to generate a page from the map utility including headers and footers and the use the Iframe method.

I tried it (the html page is made using my code not the google generated code) and it seems to work.

Hope that helps those looking to play.

Google Maps from spreadsheets

I’m playing with Google maps at the moment. I need to get my head round it so that I can start to add it to my teaching in a coherent way.

I’m in the process of building a world map of newspaper video – a grand title I know. It’s an exercise in getting php, xml, Google maps and some other things in to my head as much as anything else.

I did find a number of very useful tutorial sites around Google maps but as a more immediately useful link I can recommend this little utility from Google themselves that generates a Google map from a Google spreadsheet.

You make a public spreadsheet with the info you want and include columns for longitude and latitude. Follow the instructions on the page and you have a workable Google map.

Great for student exercises as it doesn’t require any fancy coding and generates the HTML for you.

You can set your students a data collection exercise and get them to enter the data using a shared Google spreadsheet, and generate a funky map to go with them.

Go and have a look.

Update: There is also a little app that will guess map locations based on location in a Google spreadsheet.

Catch up post: Tripods, multimedia and more

As I said yesterday, it’s been busy at Dickinson mansions so I’m catching up on reading as much as anything else at the moment. Here is some of what has caught my eye: (cue Journerdism style long post)

Ian Reeves continues to entertain with his Vlog on all things video journalism

More cams on the street

Howard Owens posted about his companies video roll-out. I look forward to seeing the fruits of that one but a comment by Tish Gier that “There’s interesting things going on in the UK, but some is, perhaps, an over-reaction and a tad neurotic….” raised my eyebrow a little. Interesting, yes. Neurotic, I’m not sure how. Maybe she means that we aren’t doing the all out beating of chests and hand wringing that oranisations in the states are doing. Who knows.

Tripod’s – use ’em if you got ’em

The newspaper video group is usually gripped by one or two ‘for and against’ style arguments at any one time and one of the current ones is about the use of tripods. It was kicked off by Michael Rosenblum who continues the thread on his blog. It’s clear from his post that rather than having a pop at tripods, which he concedes are one of those things to be used when appropriate, he is saying that tripods represent a TV structure. For Rosenblum, hand-held represents a photographic approach and Rosenblum believes that this is inherently superior.

Despite the fact that it is largely a visual medium, television has not entered the realm of art and power of image that photojournalism carved out for itself. Despite airing 24 hours a day on hundreds of channels globally for half a century, we have no Capa of television journalism, no Cartier Bresson, no Sebastao Salgado.

That is a tragedy.

As newspapers move into online video, they can embrace the traditions of photojournalism – or they can embrace the traditions of television.

Let us hope they move toward the former….

Let us hope they do neither Micheal. Aligning the use of tripods with a fundamentalist view of what video on the web should be is a pretty shaky premise. If only photography where that clear cut. Let online video develop and don’t confuse technology and technique. Or do we need to restart the debate about b+w vs. colour or film Vs. digital for stills shooters?

Angela Grant takes Micheal to task over his idealogical objections and generates some interesting comments in the meantime. Jim Long picks up from a TV camera point of view and Cyndy Green also has a nice post about tripods, picking up on what was said on the list
Multimedia writing

In other parts of the web, I came across a very interesting site from Dave Brewer. Once of BBC news, then of CNN and now a media consultant. Amongst the interesting stuff on his pages is a MultiPlatform authoring tutorial. It would take a while to explain so go and have a go.

A lot of Dave’s work seems to be in helping establish media skills in emerging democracies and in a similar vein Dave is also involved in a site called Media Helping Media :

Media Helping Media (MHM) has been set up to provide a platform for those involved in establishing independent media in transition states, post-conflict countries and areas where freedom of expression and media freedom is under threat.

Well worth a look.

It was set up in conjunction with a guy called Bob Eggington. Amongst other stuff Bob helped set up BBC news online. He was also the external adviser on our MA Online Journalism for a number of years. A thoroughly decent fella he was too. In that freaky way that the web seems to work Bob is in the chair for the 6th Journalism Leaders Forum at the University.

Radio and Multimedia

Mike Mullane at Multimediameetsradio continues to ponder how all this new media impacts on Radio with his 10 ideas for a successful multimedia strategy

Student Blog

Last but not least a heads up to Megan Taylor who popped up in my technorati list the other day. Megan has a great site which is an example of how trainee journalists are embracing this stuff in a thoughtful and exciting way.

Flash and XML examples.

Posting has been light for the last week or so, not because I’m upset about being referred to as part of the ornery print brigade which would have my print colleagues in the department wetting themselves with laughter, but because it’s been pretty busy work wise.

I’ve been up to my neck in video training for print journalists and my teaching load crept up as a seminar timetable was swung in my general direction. Still, both gave me opportunity to spend time with interesting people, with interesting insights.

Whilst I’ve been away from the posting pages of the blog I have been keeping an eye on things including the frankly baffling debate about using tripods on the Newspaper video list and other great stuff that I will pick up on this week.

One thing I have been messing with, which I thought I would share, is some flash work I have been doing. My online students have been playing with flash, to good effect. I had made some templates for them to use, only to realise a few hours in that they were using FlashMX and I was working on 8. Oh, well.

So rather then let the files sit and do nought I thought I’d share for people to mess with.

The flash blocks
It’s simple stuff. A few swf files that read an XML file to display content. You load up the XML file with the story and the links to media and the display does the rest. The aim was to generate a number of blocks that could be reused, rather than have a new swf for every bit of content.

So far there is a text block, a text and image block and a video block. I do have a slideshow block as well but it uses a shareware piece of flash to drive the slideshow so I’m not distributing that. Let me know if you want details.

Each individual block can be called with a variable that points to the xml – text_player.swf?file=text_content will open the text player and load the contents of a file called text_content.xml. You can change the look and feel of each block by editing the FLA file and republishing it. I think that I have commented them in enough detail and there is nothing tricky in there.

In action

Flash blocks example

This example uses a ‘wrapper’ swf to call each block.

I’m know there are lots of ways of doing this stuff better, and the load times don’t break any records, but if people want something to bash around with as a starting block they are pretty solid.

You can download the swf’s, fla’s and media files in Stuffit format. (right-click and save the link)
Let me know if you get any use out of them at all.