Tag Archive for website

Pronounceology Interview

Hey guys! Adam Verner, a very fine audiobook narrator and a fellow Faffer has come up with a great tool for narrators called Pronounceology. As soon as I saw him post about it, I knew I had to get the lowdown on such a great idea and how he came up with it! Here’s all the details about this site, which will make your future research way easier!
1. Pronounceology! What is it? (And where did you come up with the name?)
In a nutshell, Pronounceology is a tool that hooks into the backend of major online dictionaries and pronunciation resources like Merriam Webster, Oxford, and ForVO to provide bulk pronunciations and definitions.  It also acts as a kind of “home base” for research on the web, allowing you to save reports or words you’re looking into, the source URL for pronunciation, phonetic spellings, and any research notes.  I’m hoping it will be kind of like a Swiss Army Knife for research, with as many import and export options as possible.  Right now you can import a spreadsheet or CSV with page numbers, simply paste in a list of words, or import notes from iAnnotate (it’ll pull out just your highlighted terms).  Other PDF sources can be supported in the future if they’re popular enough or in demand.  Other dictionaries can be added down the line, as long as they have an API (Application Program Interface), which is a way for programs to access databases.  Those will form the core functionality of the tool, since that’s the way to search for a whole list of terms at one time.  There are also prebuilt search links for you to go find an obscure pronunciation.  For example, a lot of proper names and places aren’t in standard dictionary databases, so I’ve included links to a search in YouGlish.com or YouTube interviews.  If you’re looking for how to pronounce Richard Cytowic’s last name, for example, clicking a link will take you to a YouTube search for “Richard Cytowic interview.”
The other cool component will be exporting just the phonetics you need back to you source PDF or manuscript.  I know all narrators work differently, and my hope is that the tool is flexible enough to cover many different types of workflows. I’ve always kept my research in a spreadsheet as it’s easy for a proof listener to follow along, but that’s meant I’ve had to cut and paste by hand every set of phonetics back into the appropriate page of the PDF for seamless narrating. Pronounceology will do that for me, though I may want or need to go back through the script to adjust the placing of the text.
As far as the name goes, “ology” means “the study of,” and I often find narrating challenging titles is almost like a study of pronunciation.  Other times, it’s like a Sherlock Holmesian tracking down of elusive vocabulary!
2. Where did you get the idea to create Pronounceology
Basically, I’m a total dork.  But really, I love words, automation, and optimization.  If there’s any way for me to save keystrokes and time and get back to what my true passion is – narrating books – I go for it.  I’m always writing macros on my computer to automate invoicing or perform repetitive tasks.  I’ve longed for something like this to exist for years, and finally decided I should just build it!  There are plenty of great resources out there for pronunciation, but as far as I could tell, no tool that allows you to import in bulk, or multiple terms at a time.  For some titles I would be spending hours and hours tracking down pronunciations, and not every publisher pays you for that time or helps you with it.
3. Are you running the back end yourself? 
No, I’m working with a great developer, formerly with HP.  After interviewing many, many different freelance programmers and full development firms I finally found a great fit, someone who “gets it,” and brings his own ideas to the table.  As of now we’re running in Node.js and totally boosting the runtime environment with a flux capacitor.
4. From what you’ve posted, I see that it’s primarily intended for audiobook narrators, but have you ever thought about elearning pronunciation?
Oh yes indeed!  I’m starting with the audio book industry since that’s my full time job and the community I know the best, but this tool could be useful for literally anyone that needs pronunciations.  eLearning, other voice over, and most importantly, the ESL and language learners market are next on the list.  I’m even hoping to partner with schools or universities to provide “enterprise” accounts for any students learning English.
5. Do you have a place where people can check back or sign up for updates about the site? 
I’m so glad you asked!  Check out the teaser video on Pronounceology.com and sign up for the email list to be notified of updates.  I’ll be releasing more videos with more details in the months to come, and I hope to launch later this year.  You can also contact me at [email protected] with questions or feature requests!  In addition, I’ll be at APAC (audio book conference) in New York City this week and can do live demonstrations if anyone is interested (assuming the pesky WiFi cooperates!).

Archive Thursdays: Website Don’ts

to-dont

Hello folks! This week’s archive post originally ran April 18th, 2012. Hope you enjoy!

These are a few things that I’ve seen on various VO talent’s websites all across the web. This list comes from all types of talent. Remember, your site is not a fire and forget kind of marketing. This is an encapsulated representation of you for everyone to see.

-Make your contact info easy to find. If it’s hard to find, people will more than likely go somewhere else.

-Simplicity. Please the eye, don’t overload it. Be classy, not neon.

-Never ever auto play your demo. You will sound like those websites with an annoying talking ad. This will damage your critical first impression by associating your voice with irritation.

-Consider investing in a nice photo. It never hurts for your public “face” to look good. Some people will disagree with me, and its your choice, but if you do post a photo, make sure it’s not a blurry party shot.

-If you’re wanting to make a serious go of being a VO artist, have a website that is up to date and more than something on a P2P site. Even if you have a good stable client base now, you never know when someone with money in their pockets is going to come looking for you.

-If you haven’t updated your blog since 2008, consider its purpose on your site.

-If there’s a blog on your business website, it shouldn’t be written about a pet or good food.

-If I Google your name, or your name with the word voiceover, I should be able to find you. For some people, this is particularly hard if you have a common name, but you should at least be in the top 10 of the search results.

-Make sure your public email is one you check regularly, or at least that it forwards to one that you do.

-Be sure to have someone else read your blog posts. Spelling and usage errors do not make a good impression.

-Test your website on more than one browser. Different browsers can make things behave oddly, and you want to have a consistent image. Also having a mobile version of your site, even if it’s just a simple one, is a must for phone viewing.

To have a good online presence, you have to be aware of many things all at once. Hopefully we can all be more aware, and subsequently more successful.

And next week, I’ll be getting into a couple of vocal tips to clear up those pesky mouth noises.

Thanks For Sharing

thank you noteI want to take a moment and publicly thank all of the many people whose advice and thoughts have contributed to this blog. Many of my thoughts and ideas are personally spun iterations of common topics-we all deal with the same issues, and it does no harm for there to be more helpful literature out there. I hope that my take on things has been useful or educational to my readers-that’s my goal here. I want to continue to do so for years to come. 🙂

If I were to list every single person, this would be an awfully long post! Anyone who doesn’t get a personal mention rates no less thanks from me-these are just a small selection, in no particular order.

Misty Ellis- my best friend, and the subject of the post What Starbucks Taught Me About Customer Service, you always have a good thought or insight on things, and your customer service and dedication to what you do are amazing, as always.

Lauren McCullough & Talmadge Ragan– you guys were two of the folks who encouraged me to start writing this in the first place, thank you!

Bob Souer– Where would this list be without my Dad? He’s often given me ideas, direction, and writing advice. It’d be a different blog without him.

Paul Strikwerda– At Faffcon 3 where I got the inspiration to start this blog, Paul gave me a lot of thoughtful advice on direction, overarching goals, and a lot of his time in order to do so. 🙂 He continues to be one of my favorite content providers, and an interesting and thought provoking writer.

Derek Chappell– I met Derek at Faffcon 2, and we have since shared a lot of social media interaction. He is a great person to follow on social media, as he makes a point to share and retweet helpful content. I often seek him out when looking for good content to share, or for thoughtful inspiration for my own writing.

Amy Snively– Well, as most know, Amy created Faffcon. Without Faffcon, not only would this blog, but my business would not exist. She’s been a wonderful and caring friend since the first time we met, and has offered me tremendous encouragement and help in many areas.

Social Media Navel Gazing

bellybuttonFirst, a definition for anyone who’s never heard that term:

na·vel-gaz·ing
noun
noun: navel-gazing
  1. self-indulgent or excessive contemplation of oneself or a single issue, at the expense of a wider view.
    “he lapsed into his customary navel-gazing”

Social media is a great place to talk about yourself and what you are doing. Your friends, family, and colleagues that aren’t in your daily life can get a quick snapshot of how things are going for you and what you’ve been up to. But this, like all things in life can be over done and it’s really easy to slip into what I like to call “bullhorn mode”.

When you’re using a bullhorn, you’re not listening. You are only broadcasting, dominating others and are only putting information out there in the world. When you’re on your bullhorn, you’re not taking time to listen and read, you’re not interacting with others, and there is no community in what you’re doing. It’s so easy to skim, click like a few times, write something about what you did to day, and move on.
Recently, I read an article on not liking things on Facebook. I think this is an important concept, because it makes it harder for you to just take the easy way. It’s not that it’s bad to like, but it’s like the social media version of a non-verbal head bob when you agree with someone. You feel like you’ve done your social duty, and nothing more is required of you. From the time that I stopped liking things my engagement with other talent and with my friends and family has increased many times over, and my Facebook feed has cleaned up, just like in the article.
What do you gain from engagement? Well, that’s the neat thing, you really don’t know. What you put out online stays there forever, and you never know how far your positive statements, your good actions, and your happy thoughts might reach. (The same is true in reverse, of course.) I can’t count the number of connections I’ve gained simply from the fact that I made a post some time, somewhere, or someone mentioned my name online.
So put down your bullhorn. Get your nose out of your navel. Engage, discuss, debate, encourage, uplift, and mention. See how far you can really reach, and see how much good you can do out there.

Content Context

Personal-Blogging-Hullabaloo-All-the-WayDo you write a voice over blog? There are quite a few of us who do. But my question for you is do you realize what you’re saying? When you write, is it just to share your thoughts with the community? It’s important when you write to have a purpose for doing so, and to know what that purpose is. Otherwise, why do it? There’s so much for each of us to do that it’s a good idea to consider and focus each of our efforts.

What content are we creating?
Why are we creating it?
What is the goal of this content?
Are we achieving this goal with what we write or share?

If you just want to talk about the cool things you’ve done, well that’s a purpose of a blog, although it’s pretty unlikely that anyone’s going to want to read it. Interspersing this with cool things that other people have done or are doing you may garner some more interest as you’re not just talking about yourself. If your purpose is just to put your name out there, you can get some traction with that, but the type of content creation that will really get you attention is almost another full time job. Rather than writing fitfully and without direction, perhaps delete that extra page on your website and focus yourself on marketing in a different avenue.

Everything we do is connected. What’s the context of your writing in your other personal promotion and marketing efforts? Does what you’re doing, what you’re writing about make sense and fit in with everything else? Make yourself into a lean mean effective use of time machine, focus your efforts, and measure the totality of what you’re doing against where you want to go with your business.

The Commonalities in your Logo

Over the past couple of years I’ve met a couple hundred voice over professionals, and connected online with hundreds more. One very common thing I see from professionals old and new is the presence of a microphone somewhere in their logo or branding. Now, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with this. It’s a logical step to think about what you do and the fact that a microphone is intimately involved with this. However, something to consider is how common this is. A microphone can be used in an innovative way to work well with a logo, but it is also very easy to be just another VO talent with their name and a picture of a microphone. The other fact here is the microphone says nothing about YOU personally. Is your turn around time fast? Do you truly care about you clients? Do you have a personal commitment to going 110% in your work? Do you have 10 years experience? You get the idea. The microphone says none of these things. It just says that you have one, and many people also use very similar images for their logo.

There are a million billion conversations coming at us every day, and it’s very hard to get yourself heard in the ceaseless babble. It’s important to highlight what’s unique about you personally, what makes you different? Why should people want to work with you?

The second major commonality that I run across is the word ‘voice’ in people’s taglines. I haven’t done searches on this to get accurate numbers, but just from all the sites I have visited, and logos I have seen, this word is vastly overused. Again, I’m not saying that it’s impossible to use that word in an innovative and interesting way, but it’s useful to consider exactly how many people are using it online every day. Every VO professional has a voice, and again, it doesn’t really illustrate anything about you personally or professionally.

If you have one or both of these items in your logo, I’m not telling you to change it, but I do want to point out the realities of their use. If you do want to change it, what should you do? Start talking to people who know you well, and get words that describe you, as many as you can, and see what images that brings to mind. Basics are good here–in jokes are not a good idea. That’s where my lightbulb came from. I hope that this article can help, or at least get you thinking in a new and potentially useful direction.

Website Dont’s

These are a few things that I’ve seen on various VO talent’s websites all across the web. This list comes from all types of talent. Remember, your site is not a fire and forget kind of marketing. This is an encapsulated representation of you for everyone to see.

-Make your contact info easy to find. If it’s hard to find, people will more than likely go somewhere else.

-Simplicity. Please the eye, don’t overload it. Be classy, not neon.

-Never ever auto play your demo. You will sound like those websites with an annoying talking ad. This will damage your critical first impression by associating your voice with irritation.

-Consider investing in a nice photo. It never hurts for your public “face” to look good. Some people will disagree with me, and its your choice, but if you do post a photo, make sure it’s not a blurry party shot.

-If you’re wanting to make a serious go of being a VO artist, have a website that is up to date and more than something on a P2P site. Even if you have a good stable client base now, you never know when someone with money in their pockets is going to come looking for you.

-If you haven’t updated your blog since 2008, consider its purpose on your site.

-If there’s a blog on your business website, it shouldn’t be written about a pet or good food.

-If I Google your name, or your name with the word voiceover, I should be able to find you. For some people, this is particularly hard if you have a common name, but you should at least be in the top 10 of the search results.

-Make sure your public email is one you check regularly, or at least that it forwards to one that you do.

-Be sure to have someone else read your blog posts. Spelling and usage errors do not make a good impression.

-Test your website on more than one browser. Different browsers can make things behave oddly, and you want to have a consistent image. Also having a mobile version of your site can help for phone viewing.

To have a good online presence, you have to be aware of many things all at once. Hopefully we can all be more aware, and subsequently more successful.

And next week, I’ll be getting into a couple of vocal tips to clear up those pesky mouth noises.

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