Free Audio Commenting

Because you’re here, you’re probably both a writer and an early adopter. Perfect.  But like me, you might sometimes look back with a laggard’s eye to a time when the writers’ blogging community was less distracted by microblogging and social networking.

But maybe blogging was missing something all along — conversation.  Vocal conversation.

Voys.us is partnering with VoiceThread to provide writers and poets with “a tool for having conversations around media.”  With VoiceThread, your commenters won’t be left to respond only in print as with conventional blogs, but may respond by video and audio, too.  VoiceThread makes it easy for blogging’s typical post-centered conversation to become voice-centric as well: a visitor may add a comment by using her computer’s built-in mic or any other mic, by uploading an audio file, or even by picking up the phone.  All text by either the blogger or the commenter turns into a video, and a handy drawing tool helps both you and your commenters emphasize different points in your post’s text, image, or video.

And when you want to embed the post elsewhere, the comments embed with it.  New comments on the post at one site show up at all the other sites the post has been embedded.  Talk about a conversation!  (And if you don’t want the comments to ship, you check a box before VoiceThread generates the embed code.)

Think of the possibilities.  I thought of a few of them and shared them with VoiceThread, which has focused exclusively on the business and education markets to date.  They gave me a slew of basic accounts for my writer-and-poet blogging friends to see if I’m on to something.

And check out these examples.

Your commenters’ experience

When a commenter clicks her first VoiceThread “Comment” button on your site, she’ll go through a short and simple sign-up while never leaving your site.  She gets a free account allowing her thirty minutes of video commenting and unlimited text and audio-by-mic commenting.  She may even upload three of her own VoiceThreads on her own site if she so desires.

Your experience

But you – you get a basic account, and that’s much better than a free account.  You can upload files as large as 100 MB (that’s pretty much a tenth of a gig), you have 250 MB of storage, and you can create up to 50 VoiceThreads.  You get limitless video, audio and text commenting, too.   Here’s how the two plans compare:

Feature \ Plan Basic Free
VoiceThreads
Number of VoiceThreads 50 3
Images, documents, videos, audio-file uploading (central media) Yes Yes
Slides per VoiceThread 500 50
Storage 250 MG 75 MB
File size limit 100 MB 25 MB
Comment moderation Yes Yes
Commenting
Voice (microphone) Unlimited Unlimited
Voice (uploaded .mp3 or .wav file) Unlimited No
Voice (phone) (you can buy more) 3 minutes 3 minutes
Text Unlimited Unlimited
Video Unlimited 30 minutes
Drawing tool use Unlimited Unlimited
Other
VoiceThread email invites per day 500 50
Identities (aliases) Unlimited Unlimited
Embedding and link sharing Yes Yes
Cost Free through voys.us Free

Each of your VoiceThreads can contain any combination of these file formats: .wmv, .ppt, .pptx, .gif, .pps, .pdf, .avi, .jpg, .doc, .docx, .png, .opd, .mov, .flv, .xls, and .bmp.  That covers most popular audio, video, slide show, text, and even spreadsheet formats.

Your VoiceThread admin interface is simple and well designed. I’ve learned by experience that VoiceThread’s support – both online and by phone – is first rate.  (Rest assured, though – your commenters will never have to go to VoiceThread if they don’t want to.)

There’s no oversight or “admin” level above you, of course.  I’ll be as in the dark as the next guy about what you’re doing with your account.  If you’d like to make a private group, though – a group of users to whom you would limit certain VoiceThreads and their comments – let me know who they are, and I would create them for you.  (That feature is also unavailable at the free level.)  Privacy, common interests, and the freedom to expose rough draft work to criticism are a few reasons you may wish to make private groups.

How to try it out

These powerful VoiceThread basic accounts are currently available only as part of their education and business accounts.  But now they are also available through voys.us.  For free.

Maybe try it out by commenting on one of the VoiceThreads on voys.us with a free account.  See what it’s like to be one of your commenters.  Imagine what it’ll be like to have these on your blog.

If you’d like a basic account, please fill out the form on this page. If you already have a free account, the next time you log on to VoiceThread, it will ask you if you’d like to accept my invitation to become a basic account holder instead.  Say yes, and you’re in business.

If you have a track record as a blogger and either a poet or as what Juan Ramon Jimenez disparagingly refers to as “a literary man,” you’re on.  (That is, if you’re also one of the first hundred to apply.)

If you take an account, you certainly won’t be beholden to me: I got these free.  On the contrary, I’ll be beholden to you.  I can’t blog like this by myself.

If you sign up for a basic account and find you don’t want it, just let me know.  (That’s what happens sometimes.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.)  I’ll give your account to someone else.

Some of those possibilities

With a free account, your commenters can give a limitless number of verbal responses to your videos or slide shows, sliding the slider to the point they want to address and circling or otherwise drawing on that portion of your presentation.

Your commenters can offer their own readings of the poem or prose passage you or your friends perform in a VoiceThread.

Your commenters can offer personal birthday greetings around a VoiceThread celebrating a friend or personal hero.  You send the birthday boy a link or the embed code. The comments that appear on your site also appear anywhere your VoiceThread is embedded.

Your commenters can all try their hand at singing a snatch of song you audition in your VoiceThread.

Your commenters can read their favorite poems by a poet your VoiceThread celebrates, or a favorite passage from a novel or essay by a writer your VoiceThread celebrates.

Your commenters can get into a heated verbal or even video argument over a controversial subject your address in your VoiceThread and swear never to return to your blog! (Yes, you do have the ability to delete unwanted comments.)

When things get too serious around your site, you commenters, who in a few weeks might be getting comfortable seeing themselves in video comments on your site, can make fools of themselves as your blog’s aggregator numbers skyrocket.  Some of your commenters may launch their acting, speaking, or pundit careers on your site.

And your more reserved or more mic- and phone-less commenters can still comment with text, either on the VoiceThread or on your usual comment field below where you have embedded the VoiceThread.  (If they make text comments on your VoiceThread, though, their comments can still demonstrate them drawing all over your VoiceThread for emphasis or fun.)

Speaking of your late-adopter commenters – voys.us offers some brief wording you might post under your VoiceThreads for the first few weeks or so.  It may address a concern or two I anticipate some of them may have.

I hope voys.us helps my personal blog, particularly with its exploration of how the spoken word might gain a healthy preeminence in the worlds of art, ideas, and religion.  Voys.us and  VoiceThread might fit some of the stuff you’re doing on your site, too.  If you try it out, give me a call (1.443.6.VOYSUS), or add a comment to this VoiceThread below to let me know what you think and what you’re doing.  (And, yes, you can email me at peter at voys.us, too.)

Maybe literary and spiritual blogging will take wing again through verbal and audio-visual commenting.  Maybe we haven’t seen blogging’s heyday.