Monthly Archives: March 2019

Podcasts and wikis and open-source software, oh my!


Image courtesy of Alphacolor on Unsplash.

Hi, everybody. So… latest class in the e-commerce certificate I’m earning has wrapped up and it was completely fascinating. I have one more class (advanced Web analytics) to complete later this year and then I’ll have my certificate. Two years of hard work is almost over!

I learned some fascinating things in this class, so my intent today is to share some of what I learned with all of you in case people find it helpful for creating their own. We went over social media and blogs (!), but we also covered areas where my knowledge needed further development, such as podcasts, wikis and open-source software.

Podcasts: A podcast is basically a big sound file that can be listened to from a smartphone, laptop, notebook computer or desktop computer. It’s actually quite easy to create — all you need is a microphone (you can use your computer, but there are also microphones with USB connectors that plug into your computer) and the right kind of software, like Audacity or Sound Forge Pro.

I used Audacity, which was free and very easy to figure out. It was a lot of fun playing around with what it could do (one of my favorite things is exploring what new software is capable of). As a part of my homework, I looked up tips for how to create a good podcast and was quite satisfied with how it turned out.

Podcasts are typically hosted on a site such as Soundcloud. If you like public radio, NPR has some good podcasts as well.

With a podcast, it sounds better if you have a good introduction to bring new listeners up to speed, introduce your topics/guests and have a good conclusion (a.k.a. outro). One source I read recommended having your interview questions written out ahead of time so that the conversation doesn’t lag and sounds natural. I worked from a script I’d written, but in my case, I wasn’t interviewing anybody.

Wikis: With a wiki, somebody sets it up, sets the rules and anyone can sign up to be a contributor. The idea is that people with a common interest work on a group project. I’ve found them particularly useful when I’m catching up on a TV show and want to understand who a new character is. Wikipedia is one of these sites and Fandom (a.k.a. Wikia) is another.

I wouldn’t mind having the chance to write and edit for a wiki someday. It sounds like fun.

Side note: Around the same time the class was going on, CBS This Morning aired a story about a Wikipedia writer/editor. He has made nearly 3 million edits on Wikipedia and written 35,000 original articles. Very impressive!

Open-source software: I was quite surprised to learn how much free open-source software is out there and available to download to your computer. There is LibreOffice, which is similar to the Microsoft Office suite and compatible with Office’s software in case you need to import it into an Office format. Audacity was another and GIMP is a photo editing program. Due to the demands of my class, I didn’t get to play with these as much as I would have liked, but I’m making up for lost time now.

I initially wondered about whether or not the software was safe to download, but I found out that it is — the developers work hard to create a quality product. Nobody wants their name associated with a bad experience. With open-source software, there isn’t always a company to call if you have problems, but there are usually forums where you can ask for help and someone will answer.

All the same, one caveat with open-source software: it’s a good idea to do your due diligence anyway before you download. I advise you to thoroughly check out any open-source software you’re thinking of downloading, so you know what to expect. Also, hunt for and read any reviews you find on it. (It can’t hurt!)



Filed under Writing