The other story about the recording of the Telecom Junkies podcast: Interview with a VoIP Hacker - a.k.a. why my voice levels are so different
A few minutes ago I posted to both the Voice of VoIPSA weblog and also the Blue Box podcast site a note about the new Telecom Junkies podcast that features an interview with Robert Moore, one of the two people involved with the large VoIP fraud cast last year. About mid-way through my connection dies and you hear Jason saying "Oh, we lost Dan!" and then I'm back, but with a much softer voice.
Since it says something about telephony - and since I'm also interested in relaying lessons for podcasting - here's what happened.
In the hotel I was staying at in Florida, I was getting pretty poor connections using my AT&T GSM phone (the replacement Blackberry had not yet arrived). I'd noticed that when calling people from my room, even if I went out onto the balcony, calls would still drop out sometimes - even when I was sitting still. Now I don't know if this was because I was on the 20th floor (room 2048, what a great geek number!) or because I was at just a particular angle for the GSM towers or what. The phone seemed to indicate that I had great connection strength. All I knew was that connections were dropping.
Needless to say, I was a bit concerned going into the Telecom Junkies podcast recording. Jason Huffman records his shows by having everyone call into a hosted conference service. When the recording is done, he gets an email with a WAV file, slaps on the musical intro/outro, potentially does some minimal editing and posts the show to their website. As Blue Box listeners know, I'm always looking to get the best audio quality possible so I was a bit concerned.
Given that cell phone coverage was problematic, I decided to try using a softphone over the hotel Internet. Unfortunately, I am on a trial system for Mitel's softphone (using the latest development versions) and I had received the notice that I need to upgrade to a new trial load to keep using it - and hadn't yet downloaded the new version. So I thought I'd use Skype instead. However, I also had the dilemma (for either softphone) that because of space considerations I had left my nice new USB headset at home. Given that I've had reasonable success with Skype's new 3.5 and no headset, I figured I would give it a try anyway.
So I actually first called into the conf bridge using Skype/SkypeOut and spoke with Jason briefly to ask about the sound quality. He said I sounded a bit quiet and rough (keep in mind that I'm talking to the mic on my Dell laptop), so I called back in on my cell phone. However, I didn't disconnect the Skype connection, but instead muted the microphone and plugged in a set of headphones so I didn't hear it.
Mid-way through the call, my cell-phone connection did die. What I did next was put the PC headphones on and un-mute the Skype microphone... ta da... I was back in the conf call, albeit at a lower volume level. So when you listen to the recording, the first part is via cell phone (and includes an audio cut-out or two) and the second part is via Skype without a headset microphone.
I thought there were a couple of interesting points here:
- I have got to find a really small headset that I can carry with me when traveling.
- VoIP can beat cell phones in availability (not that any of us in North America will even remotely dispute this!)
- It's good to have backups when doing interviews remotely.
- It never even occurred to me to use the hotel landline!
Let's think about that last point for a minute. I had, sitting right there on my desk next to my computer, a perfectly functional phone tied into the hotel's PBX. And yet, it never even remotely occurred to me to use it! In fact, outside of calling within a hotel I can't think of the last time that I've actually ever used a hotel phone for an external call. It's been probably... years! I guess I've gotten too used to the typically-extortionist rates charged by hotels for phone usage that I just don't even consider it. (Well, and every other time my cell phone has worked well!)
In any event... that's the story behind the story... :-)