Video subtitles are essential, not just an optional extra

We all know how video is taking over the Internet, and this is opening up lots of exciting possibilities. But sadly, closed captions (or subtitles) are often thought of as an optional extra, if they are thought of at all. The truth is very different.  Unless your video makes perfect sense without sound, you really must add captions.

Think of a deaf person, or someone without a working soundcard, or someone looking at their phone on a noisy bus. Adding captions instantly makes your videos more accessible to more people. And those people will thank you for it. In fact, if you work in the public sector, it is illegal to make services online inaccessible to disabled users..

How to add subtitles on YouTube and Facebook

There are several ways to add subtitles to a YouTube video. The most fiddly, but the way I recommend, is to create and upload an SRT file.  I say “fiddly”, but it is not difficult, and is worth the effort. You can make an SRT file using a text editor like Notepad.

If you have the patience to do it this way you will actually be saving time, because you can then reuse the same subtitles file elsewhere, such as for Facebook video captions. By the way, you are publishing your videos directly to Facebook as well as YouTube, aren’t you?

If you don’t add your own captions to YouTube, they have software that “listens” to the audio and this makes a pretty good attempt at adding captions to your videos.  But these automatic captions are nearly always littered with errors. Not only is this a problem for people who rely on captions, but inaccurate subtitles will also make you look unprofessional, or even a little foolish. For example, count the errors on this by Nestlé:

Going back to our friend sat on a noisy bus, Facebook has clearly given this person some thought too.  If you are using Facebook’s mobile app and a native video crops up in your newsfeed, subtitles will automatically be shown. That’s a simple, yet very smart move by Facebook.

Continue reading Video subtitles are essential, not just an optional extra

What pleased me most about #LocalGovCamp 2015

The thing about the 2015 LocalGovCamp that most pleased me is not something I did, or learnt, while I was there. What I’m most pleased about is who else I got to go along from Bradford.

I was enthused after the 2014 LocalGovCamp in Birmingham. Yet I also knew that as far as Bradford Council was concerned, there were services other than my own that would benefit from being involved with the excellent LocalGov Digital network. There were so many useful conversations to have at LocalGovCamp, and I couldn’t take part in them all alone.

So, when I learnt that this year’s LocalGovCamp would be held in Yorkshire, I was doubly chuffed. Not only would it mean less travelling for me, but I also felt confident I would be able to persuade more people from Bradford to go too.

And they did go. There were seven or eight of us from Bradford Council over the two days, including the fringe event and the main unconference. As well as myself from communications and marketing, staff from electronic services, customer services and revenues and benefits also went.


Once back at work the following week, I sent an email round the others who had gone from Bradford Council, saying I was planning to blog about it, and asking if they would like to contribute.  This is what three of my colleagues had to say after attending LocalGovCamp: Continue reading What pleased me most about #LocalGovCamp 2015

Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today

For the past couple of years I have contributed to the annual Harkive research day, sharing my listening habits during the course of one day. Last year I was even lucky enough to win a delightful bundle of music on Static Caravan Records for my efforts.

There are a number of different ways that I listen to music at the moment. I didn’t employ them all today, but I did use almost as many ways of documenting my listening as I did actually doing the listening itself.

I now realise I was a little too objective in describing my listening habits today. So I will add a bit of context now.

I’m not sure if the first one really counts. I do often wake with a song in my head, and today’s was one of my favourite songs from the new Wilful Missing album.

Listening on my way to work helps me get an early fix of music and I also find it helps to focus my mind.

I use SoundCloud like a musical Twitter at the moment. I follow various record labels and artists to find out what new music is on the horizon. That’s how I come across gems like this one:

Continue reading Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today

I before E except after C… and 66 other exceptions

A few years ago I looked up all the words that don’t conform to the I before E except after C rule of English spelling. I found more words than I had expected. I ended up writing a short tale containing 66 unique exceptions to the rule:

Feisty old Keith lives in the sovereign state of Brunei and is heir to the reign of the sheik. He’s a foreign species in a society of nescient financiers. With sleight of hand, in a heinous heist at the hacienda of the Reich, Keith seized a freight of eight buddleias. His forfeit was to either guess the height of a gneiss statue of a deity or to whistle a leitmotiv; he deigned to do neither, feigning injury to be pardoned.

Keith deifies heifers and feeds them seitan when they are deficient in protein. This he does conscientiously, reining in the dose if he suspects a surfeit may induce seizure. In such a case he would inject codeine into their veins.

After noticing seiches on the lake, Keith was prescient enough to efficiently conduct a scientific seismic survey of the weir before fishing with his seine net.

In his leisure time Keith relaxes among teil trees, veiled in his beige eider-down peignoir while proficiently spinning a dreidel, sipping from a seidel of beer.

Heigh-ho, that’s sufficient weight to the tale of weird Keith’s conscience. Don’t even start me on his neighbour Deirdre, an expert on ancient glaciers!

The end.

I found even more exceptions to the rule, but I couldn’t figure out how to fit them into my (otherwise perfectly plausible and coherent) story. The words I left out are: cepheid, deicide, deictic, teiidae, cleidoic, gleization, greige and greisen.

Apparently, since I wrote my daft little tale, the I before E rule has been dropped from the national curriculum.

So, what can we learn from Keith’s story? Sometimes rules can be pretty misleading, counterproductive or redundant. Don’t simply accept every rule you are told. I’m not suggesting complete anarchy, but ask a few questions such as:

Continue reading I before E except after C… and 66 other exceptions

Periscope and the rise of live streaming

Live streaming isn’t new, but since the launch of Meercat and then Periscope it has suddenly become the big talking point in social media.

I’ve had the Periscope app for about a week. It is far from perfect, and I’m sure there will be several iterations over the coming months.

Think twice before live streaming

Periscope’s simple point-and-stream interface partly explains why live streaming has suddenly taken off.  However, if we are going to live stream more, we need to be a little more circumspect about when we do so. Particularly as Periscope sends an alert any time someone you follow starts a new live stream.

I was never that bothered about seeing a photo of your meal. I certainly don’t want to watch you eating it.

I haven’t broadcast anything on Periscope yet. Being able to do a thing doesn’t automatically make that thing interesting.

Then there are the ethics of when to live stream, and whether we should be watching. There are times when logic and compassion should override the individual’s desire for a dopamine rush.

The vertical vice

Periscope currently only works in portrait mode. Until recently I felt strongly that shooting vertical video was a heinous act. Our eyes are side by side and we see the world in landscape. TV and film is always widescreen, so our own videos should be too. However, I am softening my stance on this.

Continue reading Periscope and the rise of live streaming

Google is our homepage

70% of recent visits to the Bradford Council website started at a search engine, and most of those started at Google.  I wanted to help our web authors think of the user journey starting not on our homepage, but on Google.

To help illustrate how so many user journeys start at Google, I mocked up a quick image for our web authors, imagining that Google actually is our homepage.

Google is our homepage
Think of the user journey starting at a search engine

For most users, a link on our homepage is not the deciding factor in getting where they want to be. Far more important is well written content that meets our web standards, and preferably on a webpage rather than in a PDF. Such content is likely to be easy to find on a search engine.

Make your own

I made my homepage mock up using Canva. A few people at other councils have asked me if they can adapt my image for their own use. I’m certainly happy to share it, but the only problem is that Canva doesn’t have a ‘share as template’ option. A shared Canva design is a ‘collaborative’ design. So, if you use this shared version of my Canva design, you need to remember that this is a shared file.  Once you have changed it to say what you want, make sure you download it straight away. You might find that if you go back to it the next day, someone else has changed the lettering.

Fox Glacier – I didn’t realise how lucky I was

Exactly three years ago, on 18 February 2012, I walked on Fox Glacier. It was one of the most amazing days of my life, and I felt lucky to have had that experience.

I didn’t realise quite how lucky I was though. I wouldn’t be able to walk on Fox Glacier today. Tourist walks have been suspended because the glacier has retreated so far.

As you can probably imagine, I took quite a lot of photos on that memorable day with my mum and H. Here are a few of them:

On Fox Glacier

Jill and Bia in ice tunnel on Fox Gacier

Loose rocks on top of Fox Glacier

Large hole on Fox Glacier

Metamorphic rock at bottom of Fox Glacier

Jill descending Fox Glacier

You can see the rest of my Fox Glacier photos on Flickr.