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Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Literature video blog to get new website

A couple of years ago Grant Hansen and I made the first Book Chat Oz video using Google hangouts, but the project subsequently remained in a sort of limbo. At the time I was living in southeast Queensland and Grant is based in Sydney. There were problems hooking up. We both found the prescription to read two books for the program a bit onerous. Questions lingered as to whether we each were really committed to the project.

But things changed after I returned to Sydney. Grant and I have been friends for over 30 years and we frequently get together for a cleansing ale at a local establishment, during which time we talk about our projects and aspirations. Grant published his first book in 2015 (a novel, Secret Histories, which was reviewed here) and was keen to raise his public profile for obvious reasons; publishers and agents like it when authors put effort into their social media profiles. As we talked about the Google hangout thing we decided to adjust the settings, and to set one mandatory book to read for both of us. There would be three books in total, two of which we would read separately.

On the final day of the year we managed to align all the stars - there was a last-minute dash to the electronics store to buy a new microphone - and get the hangout running for episode 2 of Book Chat Oz. Strangely, this attempt also ran to about 33 minutes. (There was no planning in this outcome, it just sort of happened by itself.) In the intervening two years it happened that I had forgotten how to run a hangout on air (which is the type that records to a video file; mine saves automatically to my YouTube account) but somehow it all came together in the end and we got the video cut late in the morning.

As for promotion? I find YouTube a bit difficult to understand on this point, but it seems that the primary method of promoting something there is to pay money, which is an expedience Grant and I hoped to avoid if possible.

There are other platforms of course, the most notable being Blab and Periscope. Out of these two, Blab holds most promise; Periscope is more suitable for live recording in the field using a mobile device and Grant and I were both making our videos sitting at home in front of our desktops. Blab is a new venture that enables a sort of social video-making; the conversation can be saved to a video file and also uploaded to YouTube. The only problem with it is that it is a bit of an unknown quantity from the operational point of view. I have never used it to make a video and neither has Grant, although we both have some experience using Google hangouts. There is also the problem of finding videos on Blab's website. It's not really that easy to get around the website and there's no category for books (same as with YouTube in this aspect). The Blab people have promised me they will do something about navigation but I haven't seen any improvements yet.

The view for web searchers is more promising, and I gauged how it lies by doing a search for "book chat" on Google. There's a rag-tag bunch of stuff on the first page - including our February 2014 hangout - but I came to the conclusion that there is a lot of scope for improvement with our own content. So I reserved the URL "bookchat.com.au" with the view to making a website to host our vlogs. Probably the content structure will come from a Wordpress template but Grant and I are still at the point of deciding on what kind of hosting package to use, so we're not quite ready to start loading files yet.

One thing however that we have thought about is the quality of the content. Some timely feedback from a reliable source tells us that the second and third books covered in episode two were not as good as the segment for the first one - the first one being the book both Grant and I had read. So we decided that we need to put more effort into making questions for the books that we read separately. Part of the solution to this will be that we will write blogposts about the books we read separately, and post them on the website alongside the vlog in question. Those posts can help the questioner to put together his questions, along with other material freely available on the web.

For those curious about when the next vlog will appear, I have no current information. I will be meeting with Grant in the city tomorrow for a cleansing ale, and we will talk about the project in more detail then. Stay tuned ...

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