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Podcasting pitfalls

Since I returned from my vacation last weekend I have tried to get back to podcasting for the New Books Network. This has proven a lot more difficult than it might seem given my challenges in dealing with modern technology. I had one interview lined up for last Tuesday with the author of a new biography of Philip Pendelton Barbour, only I had to first postpone and then cancel when I was unable to get the Pamela software I was using (and with which I have had several problems in the past) to connect to Skype. After four increasingly frustrating hours of trying to make it work -- including an appeal to their help desk that was never even acknowledged let alone answered -- I gave up and decided to try other recording software.


(Pamela user manual)


Pamela did refund me the money I spent to buy their program, so at least there's that.


After contacting the NBN site editor for advice, I decided to give Audacity a try. It's an intimidating-looking program of which I require probably 1% of its capabilities, but I didn't mind so long as it worked. I also downloaded a barebones program called MP3 Skype Recorder, which does exactly as advertised and no more (both had the additional merit of being free, which coincidentally is my favorite price for things). I intended to experiment with the programs, but the combination of my lost time in wrestling with Pamela, other commitments for my time, and my general lack of desire to do so meant that I didn't really try to learn how to use them until earlier today, just before my next scheduled interview.


This one was with Robert O'Kell, who wrote a fascinating book about the literary and political career of Benjamin Disraeli. Because of its length, I was reading it until right up to the moment I logged into Skype for the interview, which didn't leave me much time to get familiar with Audacity. I did put some time into it, though (about 15 minutes' worth), and I was reasonably confident that things would go according to expectations. Knowing that Skype Recorder also captured calls simultaneously helped as well, though in my tests the audio quality didn't seem as good.


When the appointed time rolled around I contacted Bob and we did the interview. We sent over an hour discussing his book, and while it could have been better structured it went well for the most part. Near the end, however, I noticed that the sound spectrum display on Audacity only reacted when I spoke, and remained flat when Bob was talking. This sent off a mental alarm, though at that point there was precious little I could do about it. When the interview was over I checked and, sure enough, discovered that I had an hour-plus recording of me speaking to silence. Fortunately I had the (messier) Skype Recording capture, so I dumped them both into the Dropbox and sent the site editor an email explaining what had happened and my hope that he would have a magical software suite that would fix everything.


(Advanced tech support)


Needless to say I'm not terribly proud of myself at the moment. While not as boneheaded as not even recording an interview (which was the mistake I made on my very first attempt to do a podcast) I still feel as though I'm having some fundamental difficulty here. It doesn't seem as though it should be that difficult in this day and age to record a Skype call, yet it seems that I can't do so without one complication or another. Nevertheless I brave on -- I enjoy getting the free books too much to quit now.