Sunday, 9 October 2011

Thing 18: Workin' on a Groovy Jing


The worst thing about Jing is that every time I read or hear its name I feel oddly compelled to say "Jings!" in a comedy Scotch accent. Everything else about it is pretty tip-top though.

As part of my job I provide over-the-phone and email assistance for users of our e-journals and, in particular, the University's research management system. This system was designed to be as user-friendly and intuitive as possible - a condition that's easy to plan for but difficult to achieve - and we also have some written guides available to download from the homepage of the system. Obviously, nobody ever actually reads these. Result: I spend a lot of my day trying to explain computery procedures to people who aren't necessarily in the same building as me. 

Until now I've been using the snipping tool in Windows to capture screenshots. I now prefer Jing though, not least because its annotation features are much more extensive and useful. I've also been experimenting with Jing's screencast (or video) function and that works pretty snazzily too, although I would like to become a bit more proficient before I begin using it to instruct and guide users. 

My introduction to Jing has come at a particularly useful time as I'm in the middle of creating some training documents and manuals for staff who are going to be working on our research management system, so I have been busily capturing, copying and pasting screenshots and drawing big red arrows all over them. I'm also hoping to build up a library of screencasts of typical procedures for staff to refer to whenever necessary. 

I have come across only a couple of hitches when using Jing: 

  • The semi-circular "sun" that's installed at the top of your screen can get in the way slightly if you've got lots of browser tabs open (when using Chrome anyway); however, this is easily solved by dragging it to either side or to the bottom of your screen, or you can alter your settings and hide it altogether.
  • I captured some videos and then when viewing them at the links in found that they played back at twice the expected speed. Again, it's easily rectified if you take care to make slow and deliberate motions when recording your video, but it's something you need to be aware of and get used to.
 These minor issues aside I will be using Jing a lot from now on. 

And now a short musical interlude, included here because it inspired the title for this post, because its lyric pretty much sums up my feelings about Jing, and because - well, just look at it:


I listen to podcasts a fair bit. Podcasts I have known and loved include:

1. The Collings and Herrin podcast, which, alas, is on hiatus since they had a tiff a few months ago

Lads, lads - less scrapping, more podcasting please

2. The Word podcast, depending on who the guest is (Danny Baker is always good value)

3. And for those times - it doesn't happen often - when I tire of repetitious, puerile jokes about crude sexual acts (see 1) and pointless music trivia and anecdotes (see 2) I like to kick back and chillax with an episode of the Philosophy Bites series

Not much there relating to libraries. The arcadia@cambridge series referred to in the cpd23 post does look intriguing - some very pertinent and timely topics are covered - so I will download these and listen to them at some point. I also had a quick search in iTunes for other library podcasts and didn't find a great deal, apart from the Bodleian Libraries' series of podcasts, which is called - I hope you're sitting down for this one - BODcasts and looks pretty interesting, although not entirely focussed on library issues as such. 

In terms of software for making podcasts, I have used Audacity before, to convert some vinyl records to MP3 format and also to tart up some of my MP3 playlists. I found it a bit fiddly for the latter activity, but if you're just using it to record a single sound source then it's perfectly do-able.

However, I'm struggling to think of a subject that I could usefully make a podcast about. At my library we have previously produced an audio tour, stored on individual iPod Shuffles that users can borrow and listen to as they explore the library on their own - quite a nifty idea and you can also produce versions in different languages for international students. But most other topics and issues have some sort of visual component which make their demonstration better suited to video or screencasting.

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