I was going to write about this last week, but I neglected to provide myself with a backup set of arms to type with, so the post got postponed due to physical incapacity. In the meantime, another example of why this is important landed in my lap.
If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you’ll know that one of my businesses is podcasting. On March 21st I was recording the “Get Published!” workshop for the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA). I tend toward the minimalist in my recording equipment, relying primarily on my iriver IFP-795, a remarkably capable if slightly fiddly little device. But this workshop had two sets of breakout sessions, which meant I needed to scrounge up a couple of extra digital recorders in order to have all the sessions covered. One was an older Sony, one a new Marantz PMD-620.
Being the backup-centric person that I am, I decided to record the keynote speakers with both the Marantz and the iriver. This was partly to compare the quality of the recordings, but I also wanted to be absolutely sure that I had a usable recording of those presentations.
It’s a good thing I did it, too. Halfway through the second keynote speaker’s talk, the battery on the iriver gave out. (It hadn’t looked that low, or I would have put a new one in before he started.) So I had to take some extra editing time mixing in the recording from the Marantz, but at least I had the whole thing. (Because I was unfamiliar with the settings on the Marantz, the quality of the recording on the iriver was much better, so I used it where I had the option to.)
And I heartily wished I’d had multiple recorders for the breakout sessions, as two of them were cut short. In one case, the storage on the Sony filled up (there was no indicator to say how much room was left on it, but it only holds about 90 minutes). In the other, it appears the speaker accidentally switched off the Marantz. Given that it was hard enough getting sufficient devices to have one recorder for each session, perhaps what I really need is backup staff. I don’t think I should go into the conference recording business. There are people out there who do it better.
The experience was definitely a lesson in the importance of backups, and it seemed appropriate to tie it in with a few notes I’ve been getting lately from colleagues and backup service providers. The day before that conference, Arco (I thought they were a gas station) sent me a message saying “Are your digital photos safe on your computer?” and advertising EZBackup101. (Their $10 off coupon expired yesterday, though.) My colleague Stu Sweetow from AVC Video sent out a newsletter advising clients on archiving their audio-visual materials. (In particular, you need to transfer your VHS tapes to digital format.) And my pals at Mozy have been talking about doing a spring clean and consolidating your CDs into storage in the cloud. (Without mentioning just how long that will take to upload unless you have FIOS…) There are probably half a dozen companies that have approached me that combine online backup with photo or video sharing, and they’re all absolutely correct that you want to keep multiple copies.
What I’m talking about here is a little different, however. When it’s really important to have that photo, video, or audio recording, you want to make multiple copies. If you’ve taken your kids in for professional photos, you’ve probably noticed that the photographer takes several shots of each pose. You’ve probably also seen that professional video teams shoot with multiple cameras. That’s partly because video is more interesting if you can use multiple angles, but it also means that if one doesn’t come out, you’re still covered. Back in my academic days, I took two cameras along on some trips, one to get slides and one to get prints. (Anyone remember film?)
This sounds like an excuse to sell (or buy) more gadgets. But I bet most people have a cameraphone in addition to a camera. A “record” function on a smartphone, or a built-in mic on a laptop, in addition to a recording device. Something that can act as a backup when it’s really, really important to have one. Because the first rule of technology, as the Ur-Guru says, is “Never assume it will work.”
Here’s my second example, from Tuesday night, March 31st.
I had learned on Monday that the AJC was going to be hosting a Business & Technology Program in San Francisco with Craig Newmark (founder of craigslist) and Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress. How could I possibly pass that up? Like everyone else, I use craigslist, and you all know by now what a WordPress fangirl I am.
When I RSVPed, I asked about recording. I was told that they planned to record the event for a podcast, but seeing as I ran the Podcast Asylum, they might want to ask me some questions. They had, the development assistant explained, rented a Zoom H2 from a local community college. The Zoom H2 is a nice little device. I’m thinking of getting one, myself. It turned out there was a problem with this one, however: apparently the battery had exploded and fried the SD card, rendering it inoperative.
So, in fact, we ended up using my trusty iriver to record the event. Dreadful acoustics (270-degree floor-to-ceiling windows, hardwood floors, and feedback in the amplification system), but it came out all right.
If I buy the Zoom, or the Marantz, you can be sure I won’t be leaving the iriver at home.