Category : Work

Work

Is Anchor the best tool to make a podcast?

Anchor says it is “The easiest way to make a podcast. Ever.” Well we will just see about that and also see if it is a good fit for you in the classroom. There are three things that make Anchor a bit different than its competition. One, there is no limit to what is hosted. That means no bandwidth limit, no storage limit and no time limit. Go crazy creators. The second thing is that you can “move” your podcast from one site to Anchor. The third thing is that it is completely free. As an educator who has relied on services before, I am a little skeptical about this one but we can discuss that later.

There are mobile apps for iOS and Android but for this post I am going to focus on the online webservice.

Getting started

Super duper easy. To create an account you can log in with your Facebook or Twitter account or sign up using an email. Before you give any info it asks if this is a new podcast or if you already have a podcast. I’ve chosen to make a new one.

Then you have to give it a name, cover art, description and add its select its category.

Then it wants your details such as email, password etc.

It is pretty standard but I like that the importance is all about the content right up front. Most places ask for your details and then start asking about what you want to create or do. Nice one Anchor.

Creating a podcast

Now that you have an account and are in Anchor wants you to start creating immediately and this is nice and simple. Check out your choices below.

  • Upload – Upload your own podcast, segment or jingle
  • Record – Record right in the app
  • Messages – People can “call in” using the Anchor app and leave voice mails that you can integrate into your podcast
  • History – A list of all your previous audio files that you create or upload to Anchor
  • Transitions – Royalty free (I’m guessing) jingles and transition sounds you can use to help make the podcast that much more professional sounding

When I first heard about Anchor I thought it was going to be one of those services where the recording has to be done inside of it. In that respect it nice to see that the teacher, students or whoever completely produce their own episodes outside of Anchor and then upload it later.

Very nice.

The record button is expected but I’m just not super excited about it. I’ve long stated that mics on laptops, tablets and smartphones tend to stink. I understand though that recording in the app is fast and easy, but that speed usually comes with a tradeoff of quality. Of course you can use a USB microphone to get some pretty great sound (check out my post Podcast crash course to get a quick overview. You could also get a USB mixer but then you’d probably be better just mixing everything in Audacity, Garageband or another DAW and then uploading the file directly to Anchor.

The history is another interesting aspect. I don’t know how many times I would love to pull in a clip of a past IT Babble podcast right into the show and there simply isn’t an easy way. This fixes this issue and it also gives you a nice overview. I wonder though if you end up with hundreds of uploads how will you find anything?

Then there are transitions. There are a surprising amount of these transition pieces. You cannot mix two or more of these jingles together but hey for a quick transition it is very easy, they sound excellent to boot.

Recording is also pretty simple, when get ready you look at this screen. You can easily select if you want to use your internal mic (please don’t) or an external connected one.

Now when you want to make a show, you don’t have to do it all in one go. You can break it up into segments. This is a good idea. It helps you and your guests distill the information you want and as for planning goes it makes a show a lot less daunting.

Let me say just say bravo Anchor.

So when you make your recordings, add your files and transitions. To do this simply click the + button and then they audio files show up on the far right hand side. You can also preview your show with the preview button. Another nice thing is that it does show you the duration. When you’re done and ready to start publishing click the Save button at the top.

Publish

Now that it is saved it is time to publish your show. This page is also nice. It lets you preview your show, add the episode name and a description. They also give you a chance to add custom artwork, so if you’re like the IT Babble podcast, you have custom artwork for each show.

If you have it saved but maybe you’re not ready to publish it no worries. Anchor offers you a way to save it as a draft or to schedule it which is very, very nice.

Once it is published you get this screen.

The statistics below are a bit misleading. I don’t think anyone can really do podcasting statistics accurately and that includes Apple. It may give you an idea of the popularity but don’t take too much stock in these statistics. You can listen to it, you get the social media buttons, the embed code and you have the option to edit the audio. Very nice.

Here is what it looks like on the web if you bring up the page – very attractive.

And if you want to listen to this ridiculous podcast you may do so below. Here is what the embed code will look like.

WordPress.com strips out most iframes which is why I couldn’t embed the Anchor player.

https://anchor.fm/it-babbles-podcast-2/embed/episodes/Test-Episode-e13dqk

Messages

If other people have the Anchor mobile app they can leave an audio message via the app and it uploads so I decided to try it out. I downloaded the app, listened to my “awesome” podcast and left a message. It must take some time to process on their end because the messages I left haven’t shown up. I am sure they will though it is just a matter of time

Should you use it

Yes! Without a question you should use it. Anchor is one of those rare platforms that lets you make it as simple or as complicated as you like. The interface is very simple and easy to navigate. There is nothing that is intimidating here at all and their support page is quite helpful.

If you want to explore podcasting this is definitely the place to start – hands down! I believe with mobile devices, Chromebooks or laptops you and a class could make podcasts with very little training (if you use USB mics or just the built in mics) and allow students to focus on the content. Don’t focus so much on the process focus more on the content – that’s where it is at.

See also: All You Really Need To Know To Make a Podcast

More from Tony De Prato here.

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Work

Six things to look for to improve your website’s SEO

Search remains key to the success of any website. Get on the front page of Google search results for the key search terms for your business, and things start to fall into place. But there’s a lot of nonsense spoken about it by those selling search engine optimisation services (SEO).

The truth is that when you, or your developers, are building your company website, if you keep an eye on these issues, you won’t go far wrong. And if this seems a bit techy, then use it as a cheat sheet to keep your web builders on their toes.

The things you need to think about to keep your website visible in search are:

 

Content
Content is king. It signals a page’s relevance to crawlers (the term given to the process by which Google investigates your page), allowing them to understand what the site is about and what keywords it should be ranking for in search engine results pages (SERPs). Unique body copy for every page is essential.

 

Site performance
The speed and weight of a site can impact heavily on the quality of experience for users and crawlers. Search engine crawlers won’t have time to crawl an entire site if it’s slow, limiting its performance in SERPs and scoring it badly for user experience.

 

Crawler efficiency
You want crawlers to be able to reach all of your pages and gain as much context from the content as possible, in order to position it well in SERPs. Maximising their efficiency when crawling your site is crucial.

See also: The step-by-step guide to making Google love your school website

User experience
Search engine crawlers increasingly attempt to recreate human user behaviour when assessing websites. In order to rank well, sites need to demonstrate logical and engaging usability.

 

Inbound links
Inbound links are still one of the dominant SEO factors influencing a website’s rankings. The quantity and quality of these links are equally significant and can help provide a good idea of your site’s SEO performance.

 

Visibility footprint
An initial look at where your site is currently ranking for keywords/themes found on your website and in its industry space.

 

Get all those right, and you’re well on the way.

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Work

How to get the most out of a work conference

When you started your career, being sent of a conference was a treat. All those free biscuits, pens and Post-It notes. But cynicism soon kicks in and conferences become a chore. But take heart, there are ways in which that duty-trip to the back-of-beyond can actually turn out rather useful.

 

Seek out what you don’t know

You can actually learn something from a conference – the chances are if you tune in to the parts of the conference you already know about, you’ll get frustrated (because you know more). Go and listen to the presentations on things you know little about. You’re much more likely to learn something. And don’t forget, that can quite often happen at the smaller conferences… don’t just hit the big ones.

Don’t waste your time
Aside from duty, what’s the purpose of you going? Are you trying, on behalf of your company, to understand a new industry, to talk about a new product, get up-to-date on big issues? Whatever it is, have a good idea, in your head, of why on earth you’re there.

Don’t waste other people’s time either
If you approach fellow delegates and look like you’re only there for the small talk, they’ll decide they are busy. Approach them and say “I only have a couple of minutes, but I have a very quick question…’ then they’ll find the time and you’ve made contact.

See also: Why you should audit your body language in the workplace

Be identifiable
You are much more likely to have people approach you if they can tell who you are. So don’t take off that lanyard the minute you’re through the door. Keep it on so that people feel emboldened to approach you.

If it’s an overnighter – get some rest
Yes, you’re out of town, but this isn’t the time to drink warm wine at some IT company’s reception (even if it is free). Get some rest – you’ll be much better for it on day 2. And you’ll have no regrets about the things you got up to. No people you need to avoid…

Always follow up

If you meet people at an event, always follow up afterwards. Connect on LinkedIn, by all means but use email too. And explain who you were (‘We talked about selling snow in Alaska’) to avoid confusion. And be brief, the follow-up is just to open up a line of communication – fuller conversations can happen later.

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Work

How to get headhunted for the best jobs

You’ll have heard the maxim that the really top jobs are never advertised, and its who you know… but what if you don’t know the right people? You do the next best thing – you make sure the right people know you, and make yourself a target to be headhunted. Try these simple tips:

 

Polish your resumé

It sounds obvious – but most people’s resumés (CVs) are barely edited from year to year. Look again at yours – does it ramble on? Make it short and pithy, no more than 2 full pages, and make it relevant. Don’t talk about your adolescent sporting victories, talk about you work – and make it a victory parade by listing your achievements. How you transformed your business, quadrupled sales or launched a new product. Use facts, especially numbers and make sure your area of responsibility is highlighted.

 

It’s all about the timing

Headhunters pay attention to the dates on your CV and notice candidates who jump from job to job. The best time to make the jump is just after a big success – you took on a brief or a project and you’ve just delivered it. You’ve never look so smart and it’s a logical time to move on to a new challenge.

 

See also: Seven Essential Tips For Landing Your Dream Job

 

Get a high profile

People love ‘trophy hires’, attracting those who have been visibly successful in their industry. So look successful – that includes actual delivery in your current job, of course, but being good on digital media helps too. You can also try writing in the press or on influential blogs, including your own, and always try to take up those invitations to speak at conferences.

 

Seal the deal

At some point, you’re going to have to meet the headhunter and the company you want to work for. Do the research on both – they will both be flattered that you know what they, and their company is about. So understand the specialisms of the headhunter and get to know the target company inside out. Know what they do, get a feel for what they lack – and understand what difference you could make.

 

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Work

Six ways to use Snapchat to promote your business

The announcements of the death of Snapchat look more than a little premature from where we’re sitting. While it’s recent, well-catalogued, troubles look like they may cause shares to fall and its user base is grumbling about changes to the way the app works, if you’re in business, Snapchat remains a great way to keep in touch with consumers.

So try the following – experiment and see what works, and what doesn’t:

Give exclusive deals
This may not work if you have an enormous Snapchat following (it could be too expensive), but if you have a relatively small number, then special deals can incentivise those people into action and keep them on the ‘inside’. It will encourage users to monitor the account, and encourage others, by word of mouth, to join up. You could also reward the more dogged followers by offering a discount or promotional code at the end of a Snapchat Story. Only those who watch until the end will have the information and instruction they need to get the prize. Then they’ll have to listen to you…

Share milestones
You might be on the verge of something significant – launching a major project or hitting a particular milestone (your one millionth customer perhaps). It’s key that you don’t let these moments drift away in the kerfuffle, but that you use these signifiers of success to remind everyone what a great company you are. Snapchat Stories are a pretty good way to deliver some swift (and easy) marketing without having huge meetings to check if everything is ‘on brand’. It’ll feel immediate and relevant to your audiences, without huge effort on your part.

Also see: 3 Ways To Use The Snapchat Discover Function In The Classroom

Use micro-influencers
Quite rightly, the idea of influencers is often mocked. But they can be helpful in making a business grow. ‘Micro-influencers’ is an annoying name for a bunch of people who have small, knowledgeable audiences in just your market. These are people who can help. So build a relationship with these people (the ones with a Snapchat presence at least) and see if they would like to try your products or services, or who might even take over your channel for a day, if you trust them.

Share live events
Snapchat is perfect for real-time marketing since it can give audiences direct access to live events, so consider using it for product launches. It’s a great way of providing a sense of occasion and excitement and providing an ‘authentic’ experience.

Promote your other social media
You can encourage cross-fertilisation of your social media accounts by, in the first instance, simply asking them to follow your business on Instagram/Twitter/Facebook, but you can also take a more hard-line approach and ask them to post the Instagram with a hashtag to gain entry to a competition, or to tweet with that discount to earn a discount. Or comment on a Facebook post for access to unique content… You get the idea.

Drive traffic to your website
Snapchat, like Instagram, makes driving traffic cumbersome. It doesn’t allow clickable links, so you have to drive people to memorable links, rather than clickable ones. Something that people can remember well enough to type into their browser (or cut and paste). Encourage them to do so by asking them to perform an action – download something special, or comment on a blog post.

So don’t listen to the doomsday predictions about Snapchat (not unless you have shares, anyway). It’s still a useful way to inform and engage your audience. Used well, it’s another way to grow your customer base and its loyalty. What will you lose by trying it out?

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Work

Video: How to start your own business

The glamour of the entrepreneur is embedded in the public eye. People who start their own business are innovators. People at the cutting edge of imagination. They are bold. They are visionaries, pushing new kinds of businesses, by creating a wholly original offering, usually through the help of an innovative piece of technology. It isn’t enough to build a company, you have to build a dream.

In short, Elon Musk.

But perhaps it’s all a little simpler than that. What this video from The School of Life tells us is that all we really need is to LOVE something a little more than most other people do: that will be enough to help us stand out from the competition. You don’t have to sell a vision to the rest of the world, you just have to believe in it just that bit stronger than everyone else.

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Work

The 5 best apps to help concentration

There’s all sorts of barriers to productivity, none more so that the gadget in front of you. Apps, games, messages and more on our devices make it difficult to concentrate and really focus on work and get things done. But there are some great concentration apps which can help, rather than distract, so try some of these:

Freedom

Freedom is an app which takes you good intentions and turns them into actions. It allows you to block websites and apps so you simply can’t access them, and therefore have no choice but to get on with your work. It works on desktop and mobile devices as well, so you can even stop yourself from picking up your phone every five minutes.

SoundCurtain
IOS

A loud office can be distracting – noise annoys. Or there’s conversations you can’t help joining in. SoundCurtain tackles this with this by playing ambient sounds, such as rainfall, wind and piano, to block out the external kerfuffle. Get some noise-cancelling earphones for the full benefit.

FocusWriter

If you’ve got one of those cluttered desktops with document icons here, email alerts there and pings all around, then FocusWriter can hone in on what you need, leaving you with nothing but a simple writing area and nothing else. Useful for writing that report, or the novel you always said you had in you…

RescueTime

You may think you’re doing OK and being productive, but it’s unlikely to be true. RescueTime could help nudge you into good habits. It’s an analytics software that tracks all that you do on your laptop and shows you what’s productive (and what isn’t). It’ll nudge and nag you if you’re idling too long. A benign boss on your shoulder.
For more about Rescuetime, check this detailed review

Brain Focus Productivity Timer
Android
IOS

This one accepts that your mind will drift. It’s a time management app allows you to set a length of time that you would like to work for, then take a break, reckoning that you should work for around 25 minutes, take a break and repeat. This way, they reckon, you’ll be more productive than trying to power through. Comes with graphs and stats and everything…

 

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Work

The three best Chrome extensions for Gmail

Gmail is a pretty successful product, obviously, and when you couple it with Google Chrome you can make it even better. There are a bunch of extensions out there for Gmail. Chances are you can find what you are looking for.  These are the three that I like the best, and use the most:

Just a note, I do not believe any of these work with Google Inbox.

The Top Inbox for Gmail

This performs quite a few features for you but the two I use the most is the ability to schedule an email to be sent at a certain time and the ability to see if the email was opened or not (better known as a read receipt). All you have to do is install the extension and then when you open Gmail and create a new email message you will notice a little toolbar at the bottom.

 

Gorgias Templates: Email Templates for Gmail

 

Ever have to send the same email to different people? This makes that task a little easier. You can create a template – give a shortcut word and then type that word in your email message and hit the tab key. Bam! Your template will populate the message.

 

Gmail Append HTML

Gmail offers a bunch of ways to customize your email, but sometimes, just sometimes, you will want to embed something in the email. There is no way for you to currently do this in Gmail so in comes this little guy. It allows you to view your email in HTML and then make changes. Now Gmail does strip out some code regardless of how harmless it is. Yet, I still have found it helpful for embedding instructions or other content into the email.

 

 

More from Tony DePrato here.

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Health Work

Learning to look up again – controlling your smartphone addiction

Why do our mobile virtual homes take precedence over our real physical homes? Does our obsessive behaviour make us less interactive and engaging with real people? Are we becoming less human and morphing into ‘smombies’ (smartphone zombies)? And if so, what can we do about it to break our habits, change our behaviour and instead of spending our time looking down bathed in the reflective glare of our 5 inch screens learn to look up again?

Ross Sleight has been involved in digital media for over 20 years. He’s founded four award-winning digital agencies, was a founder of Virgin Games and today is the Chief Strategy Officer for Somo – an accelerator that delivers rapid, actionable innovation for its global clients. Here he explores both the personal and social impact of our addictive smartphone use.

Can you really ban smartphones from schools (and is it a good idea anyway) ?

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Education Work

Can you really ban smartphones from schools (and is it a good idea anyway) ?

My good friend and fellow IT Babbler Tony wrote a piece called Mobile Phone Shutdown about how his school is banning students from using their smartphones during certain hours of the day. It’s good (please give it a read). In the post he identifies some problems that his school is dealing with and outlines a solution to ban phones for students and the hope of the outcome. It is sound. It is a levelheaded response to a problem and, let’s not forget, this is an experiment. It may yield results that are unexpected maybe even unwanted, but no matter what happens, Tony and the people he works with will observe, analyze and make another rational decision later on if needed. It’s not just a plan, it is a process.

There is a lot of talk out there about how terrible these devices are to children. There is an article in the Wall Street Journal that talks about parents trying to grapple when to buy their child a smartphone. Then there is the article in the New York Times that calls out Apple to make a “Less Addictive iPhone”. There is a lot of emotion and reaction in these articles and these topics. You often hear these words when discussing smartphones and students:

– Addiction
– Distraction
– Diminished social skills
– ADD or ADHD
– Harmful for developing minds
– Disconnected
– Leads to unhappiness and/or anxiety
– Sleep deprivation

Then there are other articles such as this one from Wired that talks about how smartphones are being demonized and may not be that bad. Then there is this article from Doug Johnson’s The Blue Skunk Blog(great blog and well worth your time if you’re an educator). He says that we might as well learn how to leverage and manage smartphones in schools. Both Wired and Doug Johnson’s blog are written by very well respected professionals like the authors of the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal.

Here is the bottom line. There is no missing puzzle piece that will solve this issue for all schools. We have to remember that the iPhone is only ten years old and I am not exactly sure when a majority of students started coming to schools with smartphones but I would take a stab and say 5–6 years ago. So the long term report isn’t in about how bad/awful/great/awesome these devices are to students.

I’m not for or against smartphones in schools. I think that should be a decision made based on a school by school basis and not by a single person.

What I am for are experiments. Trying out solutions, analyzing and discussing the results with the community and moving forward and using a process.

I am not for rash and knee jerk decisions. These are often not so thought out and when results come back that are unexpected, then it is too easy to call the fix it a failure and abandon a policy for another one.

What do you think?

More from Tony at TonyDePrato.com

At what age should students get a smartphone?

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