This site was developed to support the Government 2.0 Taskforce, which operated from June to December 2009. The Government responded to the Government 2.0 Taskforce's report on 3 May 2010. As such, comments are now closed but you are encouraged to continue the conversation at

The Vox Pop 2.0 Learning Journey

2009 September 10
by Nicholas Gruen

We’ve just finished a couple of weeks of full on touring the country.  There’s more to come, but we’ve visited Melbourne, Sydney, Canberra, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.  I’m in the States this week and then we’ll get onto some regional visits.  I think there’s a bit of a buzz about.  Of course what really matters is if we live up to it, but so far so good.  My last visit comprised a great couple of sessions in Adelaide with some great discussion – for instance on whether or not identity and authentication was a Web 1.0 or a Web 2.0 issue.  Taskforce member Glenn Archer and I didn’t agree to start with, but I think we managed to work it out as we discussed it. And is ‘joined up government’ even possible?  And what role can Web 2.0 play in helping to join up government?

We took recordings of those sessions we could and we’re hoisting them up on the site. Now within government this raises some ticklish questions. Since we haven’t recorded all the sessions, some people could complain that they’ve got the rough end of the pineapple (either by virtue of being recorded or not, depending on their perspective).  More importantly it would be best to be able to post the recordings with transcripts, particularly for those who need these to properly access the material (for instance for hearing impaired people).  But we have the recording now.  So since we have plans to get a transcript into existence should we wait till the transcript is available before we release the MP3s? That seems silly to us.  So we’re releasing the MP3s when we can.

And in fact that can help us generate the transcripts.

  • Perhaps you are willing to help transcribe them into text in a range of  languages to improve their accessibility for domestic and international purposes, or have another suggestion in this area?
  • Perhaps you can suggest an audio format that would produce smaller files (still with clear audio)?
  • Perhaps you can suggest an innovative way of analysing these sizeable chunks of information to uncover some common threads or new insights?
  • Perhaps you have had previous difficulties accessing government information online and know of helpful tools and technologies we can use for this and other such transcription tasks.

If you have an idea to suggest, then post it as a comment below or email it to by the end of next week – Friday 18 September. Please don’t send us any commercial proposals though – this is strictly an experiment in crowdsourcing and collaboration (and another chapter in our attempt to learn by doing, something it seems to me governments need to get more comfortable doing if we’re ever going to get Government 2.0 living up to its potential).

And if we can’t crowdsource or collaborate to find a solution, we have a backup plan. If we don’t have transcripts within two weeks we’ll arrange to have them made ourselves.

Taskforce Roadshow audio files

8 Responses
  1. 2009 September 10

    Great work Taskforce! This is very #dopointoh.

    I think the transcription is also important to make the recordings searchable. I’d like to hear from people here in the comments about the types of tools out there to assist with this effort. I’m sure there’s a Wordpress audio transcription plugin! (sarcasm detector required for previous sentence).

    • 2009 September 11
      Tim Arch permalink

      @HenareDegan I know Adobe has tools that can link the transcript with the audio timeline, whereby searching for a word or phrase in the transcript can take you to that point in the audio. Works for video too. I’ve used their transcibe tool that’s part of SoundBooth CS4, but with very little success. Would love to hear of any other tools that can do this.

    • 2009 September 17
      Nicholas Gruen permalink

      I didn’t know about dopointoh – thought it might have something to do with Homer Simpson. But discover on investigating that I’m a very dopointoh kind of guy.

      • 2009 September 17

        Heh, it’s a phase coined by Rob that pokes a bit of fun at everything “2.0″. Suggesting that instead of talking (2.0-ing) we should be dopointoh-ing

    • 2009 September 22
      Roger Allen permalink

      I use a tool from the US which is a rapid ‘digital publishing’ workflow framework.

      It will take any digital content audio/video/image/PowerPoint/Word etc. and transform it into publish ready content. What is really unique about its capabity is its ability to synchronise the voice with the video or PowerPoint.

      Cheers, Roger Allen

  2. 2009 September 17

    7 July 2005 – The day of the London Bombings. Tragedy struck that day. A city thrown into chaos. Systems shut down, media isolation and communication blackouts. Sky News and The BBC were racing to the scene for the first picture, the first interview, but they were held back. Roads were closed and access restricted. First-hand news was therefore limited at best, dangerous at worst. But this is where the magic of the web came into play. At the time of the first bomb, almost within a minute of the first detonation, somebody, somewhere created a new Wikipedia entry. Others came to the table. Office workers sat at their desk, people working on laptops outside of coffee shops and folk simply walking by on their mobile phones. People were contributing. Many people were contributing. They all brought a piece of information to the puzzle. Communication was no longer controlled by the media gatekeepers but by all of us. Sky News and The BBC were referring to Wikipedia for up to one hour after the attack had happened.

    And then this. A creative light somewhere put together a time lapse of the pages history from the time of the first bomb to some days and weeks later. The result is quite phenomenal. The day I came across this clip was the day I woke to the real magic of the web. I suddenly realised that the Internet was no longer a mysterious place reserved for the geeks in the computer lab. Everyone was contributing, and how! The level of detail now found on the 7 July wiki page is a testament to the creative ability and diligence of us all.

    But then we start to ask the big questions like what motivates people? Why do people give up their evenings and weekends to do something that never pays back? Quite simply, why bother? Initially I was thinking about those folk who point a camera at every Simpson’s episode (or similar) and upload the content to YouTube. What is their reward? Perhaps these are the real revolutionaries – leading the charge against the media oligarchs. The other contributors motivations are perhaps more understandable – the creatives. The producers of film, photos, writing and systems code. If I open up flickr (a popular photo sharing website) I can see that 3,773 photographs have been uploaded in the last minute. We are moving towards the era of ‘Gift‘ in which the exchange of objects between groups builds relationships between them or ‘The Gift‘ economy – the obligation to give, the obligation to accept, and the obligation to reciprocate.

    It also likely that any online effort is about building reputation capital, to coin a phrase. I found it quite interesting to read that twitter paid $6 to the designer of the bird graphic – Simon Oxley. It was simply sourced from the web using iStock Photo. An unfair exchange some might say given the success of the global tweet, but I wouldn’t bet against Simon offered a whole host of lucrative design projects. His reputation enhanced, the riches and work will follow.

    Building reputation capital takes time and effort. It is not necessarily the contribution, but the contextual detail that sits around it. The title, the tags, the location, and the submission to groups and search engines. This aspect is important to the creator. Their content needs to be found and it is their responsibility to make that happen. It is only when the content gets some traction, an audience, do others want to contribute. People will add comments, new tags and possibly even improve the original media object. They will be sufficiently motivated to do so. They associate themselves to the successful entity.

    I think we can take two things from this whirlwind tour of the web:

    1. It is the responsibility of the owner to promote their content with descriptive tags and contextual data.

    2. We can not underestimate the ability of the crowd and of peoples’ motivation to help out. This is where the magic of the web sits.

    At Media Access Australia we would promote 1 over 2, but if 2 helps deliver 1 then all the better. Our ambition is to make all media accessible to all audiences at the point of delivery.

    More on 1 – Owner Responsibility

    Translating audio and video files into text transcriptions is a resource intensive and time-consuming task. This is the challenge but one we can overcome. Firstly, it is in the interest of the organisation to transcribe their content. Outside of the accessibility agenda, text is easier to scan. We can learn more and we can learn quicker. Audio and video is a powerful source but it is a slow medium to consume. Transcripts improve the user experience. Text can also be read by spiders and search engines. As we mentioned before, the contextual detail is complete and searchable. Traffic is increased. The content has more influence.

    ‘Doing it for ourselves’ is one option, but invariably technology is often coming up alongside us offering a helping hand. I came across SpinVox – a company that can take spoken words and feed them into a Voice Message Conversion System. This technology has initially been adopted to translate voicemail messages into simple text messages, but there are rumblings that the technology will be adopted elsewhere. More here.

    We can also look to mass media and the technologies adopted by the BBC and the ABC. Perfect voice recognition is some way off, possibly 40 years or more, possibly? By perfect, we mean taking multiple audio channels and picking out the spoken word. For example, a travel show where the presenter is driving in a jeep through the Serengeti. There is the sound of the engine, passengers, and even the sound of a distant elephant. This confuses the voice recognition software. Having said that, organisations like the ABC have adopted speech recognition for single voice broadcasting like news bulletins, sports events and live entertainment shows. Occasionally the subtitling feed is delayed by a few seconds as someone respeaks or corrects what is being broadcast. A trick that could be employed on the web in particular podcasts where the audio is often single track or single voice.

    More on 2 – Crowdsourcing is designed especially for web comics. Like audio and video, there is no textual information around comic books so search engines are unable to find this creative work. The comic book writer looses their audience. To overcome this problem OhNoRobot allowed readers, as well as the comic book writers themselves to transcribe the text and make it searchable. They offer a button that says ‘help transcribe’ or ‘improve transcription’. Like the Wikipedia example cited before OhNoRobot is inviting contributions from those who have their own motivations for doing so.

    OhNoRobot is one example, but perhaps a better one is TED. TED is a small nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. A stage where leaders in their respective field of thought can promote their unique ideas for the future. The site maintains over 500 talks that are available through video, and new content is always being added. Producing interactive transcripts for the deaf community and also transcripts for all nationalities is a monster task for a not-for-profit organistion like TED. The costs associated to such an endeavor would be too high. In true TED style, they have not allowed cost to be an excuse for open and accessible content. TED allows for any talk to be translated by volunteers worldwide. The most active translator Anton Hikov has translated over 68 talks. Anton is not alone. There are thousands of volunteers. In the words of TED – “translators donate their time, energy and expertise to share TED Talks with the world. Their generosity and talent allow these ideas to spread”. The process is not difficult as TED provides a simple online interface to translate or review a talk. They also promote the individual behind the translation. They cite the most prolific contributors and they list translators next to each media piece. Reputation Capital is increased for the translator.

    I hope to be making contact with TED over the forthcoming weeks and I also hope to learn more about the online translation tool. If this is a simple plug-in then perhaps it can be shared across other media sites including Government 2.0? I will also do some research on the big media players and the voice recognition software they have adopted. Again, hopefully open source!? Another great gift from the magic of the web.

  3. 2009 September 19
    simonfj permalink

    Here we go again,

    I can’t disagree with anything your other correspondents say here, and Martin’s covered most everythink if yu stay in the web 2.0 frame of mind, and think like a journo (like me bruv). I’d quite happily help in the edit & transcriptions if I thought it would make some real difference. But I keep looking towards what you’re trying to do. Are you trying to publish a journal?

    This isn’t what you’re trying to do is it Nic? You’re trying to be socially inclusive. The point I’ll try and make (as I do with everyone who ‘travels around the country’ (or world) and then reports on the remote discussion or conference. It’s same point I was making about your US trip, so you know I’ve given all the pros and cons of face-to-face vs. second hand reporting. It’s not a matter of either (all real time) or (all asynchronous reportiing). It’s a matter of balancing the best of both.

    I’ll use Pia (again) as my example as in PS3 she attempted to do what will be a common norm once it’s done a few times, regularly. She linked between Woollongong, Brisbane and Melbourne and attempted to share the learning, in real time, with three remote groups. Sure it was badly done, technically, Sure she didn’t stream and record the goings on very well, and handling the feedbck was messy. But she pointed towards the future.

    The great problem we have is that want to believe that after all the duplicated discussons in different sites are over, at different times, something will happen. After all the feedback and discussions are recorded, edited, linked, collated, transcribed, translated, and published in some report; then what? A minister gets a report? Like so many others. So?

    Look, I, like so many others, could make a tool list a mile long. We could all sit around and teach one another to use them, as educationau has been doing with teachers for 10 years, while ‘travelling around the country’ and reporting to some Minister, constantly of course. Because we do, things like NSW Connected classrooms get funded and for a few bloody obvious reasons get used very little, and when they do, can’t connect outside one state or ‘K to 12′.

    Please Nic, enough with the publishing and Teaching paradigms already. Collaborate and Learning means that we need to encourage all (professional) silos to collaborate not just Government ones. I’ve suggested to Pia, when Kate presents her report to Kim Carr, that we link up again with the remote attendees, and start getting in the new swing of things. I’ve also suggested that we might get these guys involved. It might make a nice change for them to hear from people outside
    their “by invitation only” “in each mainland capital city in August”.

    You know I only have your best interests and Pia’s, in mind. I’ve also seen so many progressives burn out over the past decade, simply because they won’t acknowledge that the web is just the surface layer to a bunch of networks, each usually offering some functionality that everyone get excited by; this week’s (real time) fashion being for twits. So you’ll like this. These network guys have all the tools I’m suggesting we use to save shoeleather and duplication. You know what they do? They hop on a plane and tour around countries ………….

    Occasionally, when they have some mates over from different countries, they try and be a bit inclusive of those back home. You’ll have to register because AGOSP is still coming (in the fullness of time). Check out Evan Arthur’s presentation ans consider what you/we have in common.

    Could we, just for a change, ask why (we should be bothered doing something) rather than how (we can use another tool)?

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