A pencast overview (with audio and recorded visual diagrams) of IndieWeb technologies

I’ve seen a bunch of new folks coming into the IndieWeb community recently who are a bit overwhelmed with the somewhat steep learning curve of both new jargon as well as new ideas and philosophies of what it means to have one’s own domain and presence on the internet.

While parts of the IndieWeb’s overall idea are quite simple, where the actual rubber meets the road things can be a bit overwhelming, and more so if you’re a non-technical person. This doesn’t have to be the case. Generally I’d recommend to people to begin attending local Homebrew Website Clubs or, even better, to attend an IndieWebCamp in person to get a one day crash course followed by a day of building and help. Sadly, life can intervene making these not as quick and immediate a reality as one might otherwise like.

So toward the end of making the crash course to explain in relatively broad terms some of the basic terminology as well as some of the bigger individual pieces and what’s happening when using an IndieWeb site with most of the major new functionality built in, I’ve made a short pencast of what is going on. Naturally there’s still a tremendous amount to learn and do, and a million things which could always be better or improved, but if you’re setting up a site using WordPress this overview will hopefully get you a lot further a lot faster. (It may also be useful for those setting up Known or even something for micro.blog, though those will have different plugins and other small quirks that aren’t covered here.)

What is a Pencast?

Pencast?! What is that? It’s a technology that has been around for a while courtesy of Livescribe.com digital pens which not only record an audio file of what is being said, but also record penstroke by penstroke what is being written. Even better the audio and the penstrokes are crosslinked, so you can more easily jump around within a lecture or talk.

To do this you should download the version of the notes in Livescribe’s custom Pencast .pdf format. This seems like a standard .pdf file but it’s a bit larger in size because it has an embedded audio file in it that is playable with the free Adobe Reader X (or above) installed. With this version of the notes, you should be able to toggle the settings in the file (see below) to read and listen to the notes almost as if you were sitting with me in person and I was drawing it out in front of you as I spoke. You can also use your mouse to jump around within the pencast by touching/mousing to particular areas or by jumping forward and back by means of the audio bar. If you need to, also feel free to zoom in on the page to have a closer look.

Pencast version

An IndieWeb Crash Course [14.9MB .pdf with embedded audio]

Viewing and Playing a Pencast PDF

Pencast PDF is a new format of notes and audio that can play in Adobe Reader X or above.

You can open a Pencast PDF as you would other PDF files in Adobe Reader X. The main difference is that a Pencast PDF can contain ink that has associated audio—called “active ink”. Click active ink to play its audio. This is just like playing a Pencast from Livescribe Online or in Livescribe Desktop. When you first view a notebook page, active ink appears in green type. When you click active ink, it turns gray and the audio starts playing. As audio playback continues, the gray ink turns green in synchronization with the audio. Non-active ink (ink without audio) is black and does not change appearance.

Audio Control Bar

Pencast PDFs have an audio control bar for playing, pausing, and stopping audio playback. The control bar also has jump controls, bookmarks (stars), and an audio timeline control.

Active Ink View Button

There is also an active ink view button. Click this button to toggle the “unwritten” color of active ink from gray to invisible. In the default (gray) setting, the gray words turn green as the audio plays. In the invisible setting, green words seem to write themselves on blank paper as the audio plays.

 
If you have comments or feedback, I’m thrilled to receive it. Feel free to comment below, or if you’ve already IndieWebified your site, write your comment there and send it to me via webmention, or add your permalink to the box below. Ideally this version of the pencast is a first draft and I’ll put something more polished together at a later date, but I wanted to get this out there to have a few people test-drive it to get some feedback.

Thanks!​​​​​​​​​

Syndicated copies to:

17 responses on “A pencast overview (with audio and recorded visual diagrams) of IndieWeb technologies”

  1. This is awesome! I will really look at the pencast tomorrow and try to give you some feedback on it. This is exactly the type of thing I was talking about in my interview with you. Thanks for all your work!

  2. @cathieleblanc I’ve been using Livescribe pens to do pencasts for 8 years or so, primarily for mathematics lectures. While it’s not great at capturing images/slides in a classroom setting (which I do with cell phone photos typically), the pen can capture audio and everything that’s written down in a chalkboard lecture. The pen also allows you to go back and to write down additional notes after-the-fact and link those with the spoken audio as well. This makes it a great low bandwidth method for capturing class notes to share with students/classmates who missed class without the need to videotape which generally is both high bandwidth (for sharing) and poor quality for showing what’s being written/presented on a board or projector.

    I’ve also used the pen for working my way through problems for students/colleagues in areas where it’s necessary to have something written down, but it’s useful to have the supplement of spoken audio to add to the problem-solving process.

    Syndicated copies to:

    1. If you figure out a simple way to do it so that one can embed it in a site to see the active ink playing, let me know. I think it’s a drawback that one must download the file and open it in a specific application to be able to see it.

      I have also extracted the audio-only file in the past and converted it to .mp3 before to post a podcast-esque type of thing. This can be useful if/when the notes aren’t of as much value.

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