In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I talk about how I screencast, some screen casting tips I’ve learned recently, and the best way to blog entirely from a mobile phone.
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0:58 – 1. My screencasting process and tips
6:36 – 2. Blogging only from a phone
14:47 – Pick of the week
DPP042: My Screencasting Process and Blogging from a Phone
Hi everyone, I’m Tristan Higbee, recording for a final time in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and this podcast is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, including blogging, ebook and video creation, podcasting, and other things relating to internet business and online marketing. You can find a full transcript of each episode of this show at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.
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Ok, I’ve got 2 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.
1. My screencasting process and tips
I’ve been doing a lot of screencasting recently. For those who aren’t familiar with the term, screencasting is when you record a video of your computer screen, and there is usually some audio to go along with it, and that usually involves you talking about what you’re doing in the video. I’m creating an in-depth course on how to easily format a Kindle book in Word, and that involves a lot of screencasts. I’ve done simple screencasts in the past, but I’ve been learning better ways to do it over the last couple weeks as I’ve been doing more recordings.
The first thing I do is make a list of the things that I want to talk about in a video. It’s just a list of the main points that I want to hit. In this stage, it’s broad things like how to save, editing a style, or how to change the size of the margin. Then for each of those bullet points, I make a list of the basic steps or other things that I want to mention about that specific process. Under the margin size bullet point, for example, I’d list that it’s under the Layout tab of the Ribbon in Word, that you can choose a preset size or can set an exact size, and that I usually go with the narrow margins preset.
So now I have a list of broad topics I want to talk about and then the list of specific things that I want to say about those broad topics. A lot of times, that’s enough for me, and I can do a screencast by just hitting those points one by one. Sometimes, though, I’ll write out word-for-word what I want to say by essentially just expounding on each of the specific points under each broad topic.
But either way, whether I have just a bulleted list of points to talk about or a complete script that I’ll read word-for-word, I put the text of what I’m going to say on my phone. The phone essentially becomes my teleprompter. I have it sitting over the trackpad on my laptop. You could also use a tablet for this, or of course you could write everything out on a note pad.
I write out the scripts on my computer and then need to get them onto my phone. I used to use the Evernote app on my phone for this. I’d have the bulleted lists or the full script typed out on my computer, and then I’d paste it into a new note in Evernote. Then I’d pull up my phone and load that note. You could also do the same kind of thing easily with Google Drive. The Drive app for iOS doesn’t work too well in my experience, but I would assume the Android version works perfectly. Like I said, I used to use Evernote for this, but now I use an app called Lumen Note. Lumen Note bills itself as the fastest way to get information from your computer to your iOS device. Basically you open the Lumen Note app on your phone and then on your Lumen Note page online on your computer, you paste in your text, and it instantly appears on your phone. You don’t have to sync or wait or anything. If you make a change to the text on your phone, it’ll be changed instantly on the computer and vice versa. That’s how get my notes onto my phone, and then I read those notes while recording the videos. If I need to pause for a while to look at the notes, I make sure I don’t move the mouse around at all, and then I can just edit out those several motionless and soundless seconds of video and audio without there being a skip.
One of the most important things I’ve learned about screencasting that has helped me is to break every process or step down into chunks of video that are no longer than two or three minutes. It’s hard for me to do a 20-minute screencast straight through, but I can easily record several 2-3 minute-long videos and then join them together in a longer movie. It’s a much less intimidating approach.
As far as screencasting software goes, I’m on a Mac and use Screenflow. It’s awesome and definitely worth the $99 price tag. The big one for Windows is called Camtasia, and it’s $299. I’ve never used it, but it’s supposed to be great. But I used to use CamStudio on my old Windows computer. It’s free and does a good enough job. And then there’s Screencast-o-Matic and Screenr, which are web-based screencasting apps that you can use for free for the basic versions. Of course, I’ll have links to all of these in the show notes for episode 42 of the show.
2. Blogging only from a phone
This last week I continued my obsession with reading about ultralight and long-distance backpacking, and I found and started reading the trail journal of a girl who goes by the nickname Wired. This year she hiked the Continental Divide Trail, which is a walking trail that goes from the Mexican border in New Mexico all the way up into Canada. It goes through New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana, and it’s roughly 3,000 miles long. So this girl, Wired, spent 134 days hiking the trail this year and blogged about every single day from the trail, meaning that you could essentially follow her progress from Mexico to Canada in real time. It’s pretty neat. There were stretches of a few days at a time when she didn’t get any reception on her phone, but she still wrote the posts daily there on her phone and then published them all when she got a better signal. She said that it took her an hour to an hour and a half each night to blog about what happened that day.
Finding her blog (which is at walkingwithwired.com) was especially timely for me because I’m actually going to be in Nepal in less than a month now, and I plan to spend 2-3 weeks trekking in the Everest region. Apparently (and amazingly!) there is great 3G coverage there, so I’m going to be taking my iPhone along and will be writing and publishing daily blog posts. Hopefully I’ll write an ebook about the whole experience when I’m done, but we’ll see.
So that led me down into the rabbit hole of blogging apps for my phone. For reference, I have an iPhone 4, but a lot of what I say here should be applicable to anyone blogging with a smart phone. I’ve looked at a bunch of different apps for a bunch of different blogging platforms, and haven’t been able to find one that is perfect. Most of the apps for WordPress don’t let you load photos into a draft post if you’re not online, which I think is dumb. The Tumblr app doesn’t let you create text-based posts with images. I don’t remember why the Blogger app didn’t work for me, but I think it was another one that didn’t let me add photos to the draft when offline.
What I want to be able to do is write the posts offline and then publish them when I get a signal. I want to be able to insert images that people can click on and be taken to the full-size image. To the best of my knowledge, there is not a single app for any blogging platform that fulfills these two requirements, which again, I think is ridiculous. There’s an app called BlogPress that promises these requirements, but I can’t get my images to link to the full-size and full-resolution versions, and I’ve tried every option they’ve got. I did figure out a workaround, though. In the BlogPress app, you can change the URL that each image links to. So the workaround is to first upload the images to Dropbox (which you can do through the Dropbox app), copy the URLs of those images, and then paste that Dropbox image URL in as the URL that the image links to. It’s convoluted, but it does work.
And as a side note, none of these apps lets you add captions to photos, which I find rather odd.
There’s one other option that’s really interesting and extremely simple and reliable, and that’s to use Evernote as the blogging platform through the service Postach.io. Postach.io is really cool. You sign up for a free account and hook it up to your Evernote account. You create a new notebook in Evernote that’s specifically for your blog, and then every new note you create in that notebook becomes either a new post or a new page, depending on how you tag the note. It’s really slick, and they’ve got some great-looking themes and templates. I like that you can create your notes and write your posts offline and then upload them, and I have more faith in Evernote not losing my yet-to-be-uploaded posts than I do in any of the blogging apps.
The problem with Postach.io is that even though you can upload large images to your note/blog post, the images are resized to 600ish pixels, depending on the theme you’re using on your blog, and you can’t link the image to anything else. What you could do is create a text link below each image that says something like “Click here for the larger version,” and then link that to the larger Dropbox image. The problem there is that there is no option to create a link in the Evernote app for iOS. It’s in the web and desktop versions of Evernote, but it’s for some reason not in the iOS app. If it’s there in the Android app, you’re golden, and I think that it would easily make Postach.io my mobile blogging platform of choice. BUT. I did figure out another workaround, though it isn’t pretty. You can type or paste in the html for a link and then it’ll work. The html is converted into a clickable link when the post is published. So you’d insert the image, go to the line underneath it, paste in the link code (or type it in if you know it), and change the URL of the link to point to the larger image that you uploaded in Dropbox. Complicated, but it just might be the best solution. I’m debating what I want to do. I like that I can use the BlogPress app with WordPress on my personal blog that’s already set up, but I also like the simplicity and reliability of writing in Evernote. I still haven’t decided what I want to do, but I will keep you posted.
All of that is probably way more than you wanted to hear or know about blogging from your phone, but this is what I’ve been thinking about and playing with recently, so you get to hear all about too! But I do want to hear from other people on this about experiences you’ve had with mobile blogging. Shoot me an email through the contact form at digitalpublishingpodcast.com, leave a comment on the site, or Tweet at me and tell me what you think the best solution is. And let me know what blogging app situation is like over on Android.
I’m also interested in the idea of podcasting from my phone, but that’s a whole ‘nuther beast. It may be slightly less tricky, but way more work. We’ll see about that one. Recording the podcast wouldn’t be too hard, but editing it would suck pretty bad, and I don’t know if I’d be able to upload it. That’s another one that I’ll get back to you on.
Pick of the week
And that now brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or anything else I find valuable. My pick of the week this time is more of a tip, and it’s to back up the bookmarks in your browser. This last week I realized that I just had too many bookmarks in Chrome and I wanted to get rid of them all in one fell swoop and start over with a clean slate. All I had to do was download them all as an html document, which is the format that Chrome and Firefox and most other browsers back up in, and which is easy to do in these browsers. Just Google “export bookmarks” if you don’t know how to do it. Then I put that html document somewhere safe and deleted all of my bookmarks in Chrome. I also wanted all of my bookmarks available in Evernote, so I opened up the html document, selected everything and copied it all, and then pasted it into an Evernote note. It’s a really nice feeling to not have any bookmarks.
This turned out to be a very Evernote-centric episode. I didn’t intend to do that; it just turned out that way. If you haven’t gotten into Evernote yet, I highly recommend it. It is one of the few tools that I use multiple times throughout every day. I love it.
And that’s all for episode 42 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.
Please don’t hesitate to email me any questions you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. If you do follow me there, be sure to say hi. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.