Record your output

Making recordings of your talks and in general your work is a good idea because of several reasons:

  • People who couldn't attend your session get the same information – a presentation to me is much more than the slide deck – the deck is actually just the table of contents of the talk.
  • You have the chance to check how you come across to the audience – I normally check my talks on my iPod whilst cycling in the gym – good use of the time and I can see where I need to improve.
  • People who prefer audio or video get interested in what you do – this also includes people who need audio and video because of their condition – for example people suffering from dyslexia.
  • It allows you to publish in other channels than just your blog or site or conference archive (more on that later in the web section).

Recording things is dead easy nowadays – you just need to know what to use and where to put it. All of the following tools are available for Mac, some are open source and also available for other systems. If you don't have a Mac – get one and thank me later.

Record the audio of your talks

Most conferences will give you a lapel mike and do some proper audio recording but if that isn't the case or you simply want to have your own copy I found that the built-in microphone of a MacBook Pro is perfectly capable of making a good recording of your talk if you don't walk around too much. The other option of course is to get a small external microphone.

For recording, I use Audacity which is a free, open source sound editing tool that has all the capabilities you need (record, cut, convert). Once edited, I put the file into iTunes to tag it and add the images for the coverflow for iPods.

For storage of audio files, I use archive.org which has a pretty nice uploading tool and comes with a good search functionality and in-built player.

Audio recordings are great as they are comparatively small and people can put them on their portable music players and listen to them on the train to work. In addition to that SlideShare also allows you to add sound to your presentations to make them slidecasts. The editor is easy to use and it gives presentations an extra zing.

Example: You can check my audio recordings on archive.org and see a slidecast presentation on SlideShare.

Shoot video

Having a video of your presentation or interviews is very nice, much for the same reason of having an audio recording. As there is audio and video it does give people the full experience of seeing you talk and the success of The Yahoo Developer Network Theater shows that people love to get videos and use them as training materials.

You can get small cameras with amazing recording quality these days and even some mobile phones allow you to record. Editing is a bit more complex than editing audio, but I found that using mpegstreamclip makes it easy to do simple cutting and conversion into almost any format.

Hosting is a bit harder – archive.org is again an option but the real power of online video comes from hosting it where people are used to look for videos and can embed them in their own blogs. YouTube is of course a main candidate (also because of their great annotation tool), but I also love using Vimeo. Uploading takes a lot longer than the smaller audio files so it is pretty tough to have a really quick turnaround.

Screencasts and screenshots

Another really powerful tool to show people what you are doing are screencasts and screenshots. Sometimes a picture explains what you want to achieve much easier than a bunch of instructions. Step-by-step instructions how to use a certain interface (for example how to sign up for a developer key) are very easy to show as a screencast. Describing the interface with words is much harder – just try to explain people on the phone how to install Windows for example…

Personally I like to keep screencasts very small by just filming me going through some interface but you can jazz them up with voiceover or embedding your webcam, too.

By far the easiest screencast software I found on Mac is ishowu which is not free but dirt cheap. If you're on PC and have some more money Camtasia was another tool I used before.

For screenshots I found Skitch to be very powerful, especially as it allows you to annotate, highlight, add arrows and immediately upload it to the web.

Link collections

Another great way to record what you have done is using social bookmarking (like delicious) to collect links for a certain event or talk that you've given. Instead of people having to remember all the links you've used in a certain presentation all they have to memorise is a single URL with a tag. That way you can easily find interesting URLs you talked about later on – simply get the link collection with the presentation tag.

The other benefit of this is that people can tag and add notes to your links in the social bookmarking system, thus making them even more findable. Which brings us to a very important part of your job as a developer evangelist: using and knowing the web and the social web.