Saturday, September 27th, 2008
Suw and I talk about the US elections over breakfast all of the time, and I realised since I came back to Washington last week that despite having very little interest in politics when I first came to Washington DC ten years ago, my geekiness has now spilled over into politics. I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had about politics and the economy with a range of people since I came back. Suw was asking questions that I’m sure on the on the mind of many Guardian readers, and instead of letting these conversations disappear, I realised that I wanted to capture and share those conversations.
We recorded this conversation this morning over Skype. She was sitting in our flat in London, and I was sitting in my hotel here in Washington. We used the Skype Call Recorder from Ecamm (a bank breaker at US$14.95), but if you use a PC, Pamela will do the same things plus can automatically handle uploads to FTP servers and auto posting to several blog services. I used Pamela to record broadcast quality interviews when I was at the BBC. If you use a nice broadcast quality mic such as the Snowball from Blue (a lovely wedding present that Suw and I received from our friend Vince), the sound quality is stunning. We simply used the mics on our MacBooks. The Call Recorder software has a side-by-side split screen option so we didn’t have to do anything to edit the video apart from top and tail it (edit out our pre-call and post-call chatter). In the end, it took very little production time apart from the time for the call. Viddler, the site we used to host this doesn’t like stereo audio so I had to merge the channels, but QuickTime Pro handled that with ease.
That’s the technical side of things. Technology is simply a means to a journalistic end for me, and the real aim is to expand my little experiment to anyone with a Skype connection, a webcam and a question about the US elections. Sure, I love talking to Suw about anything and everything, and she wants to talk after the vice presidential debate next week between Democratic nominee Joe Biden and Republican nominee Sarah Palin. I want to use this to open up a discussion with as many people as possible about the US election, around the US and around the world. I’d also like to see how feasible this is on the road. After next Thursday, I’ll be traveling across the US. The technical challenges are pretty minor, especially compared to previous election trips that I’ve taken. The real measure of success for this and many other journalistic experiments I have planned for the next month is the depth and breadth of the conversation. If you’d like to take part, drop me an email or leave a comment. Let’s talk. There are lots of important issues on the table, and I’m so excited about how technology opens up new possibilities for civic dialogue.