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Personal Toolkit: Capturing conversational context

By Steve Barth

American culture (though who knows what that means anymore) is considered a relatively “low-context” culture. More meaning is explicitly verbalized when we communicate than is left to intuition. By contrast, for example, communication in Japan is much more dependent on subtext. But even in the United States, body language and eye movements still convey much more information than we are consciously aware of.

Captured knowledge frequently is just a shadow of the original experience. Without the rich cultural and conversational context of human communication, documents lose the subtle nuances that engage both heart and mind. That’s why, when face-to-face interaction isn’t possible, we still prefer the phone to e-mail for important conversations. It’s also why some in KM are so interested in video-conferencing and multimedia knowledge capture despite the extra bandwidth, memory and processing power required.

Quindi Meeting Companion

A previous column (February 2003) praised Serious Magic’s Visual Communicator as an amazingly simple tool by which knowledge workers might capture and share multimedia presentations in a way that preserves the richness of personal knowledge.

At this February’s Demo 2004 Conference, Palo Alto-based Quindi previewed an equally simple and useful, but very different kind of multimedia knowledge tool.

Quindi Meeting Companion captures the audio and/or video of a course, presentation or meeting. That is combined with PowerPoint slides, screenshots and whiteboard images. Those are then tracked by a user’s own notes. One or two video cameras and a microphone plugged into a laptop are all you need to document a session, with the PC’s clock providing a time code that synchronizes the various elements.

The company sees it being used at everything from design reviews to sales presentations to brainstorming sessions. Each participant can log their own notes, or the job can be assigned to a designated note taker. The application runs on any laptop running Windows 2000 or XP.

The result is an indexed, searchable file that can be later reviewed or shared by e-mail with other Quindi users—with less context lost. The point of Meeting Companion is to create a useful artifact that is worth revisiting. For example, a design services company uses Quindi to capture the details and nuances of client meetings for viewing and reviewing by the rest of the creative team.

Search for the right keywords in your notes and replay only that part of the speaker's presentation. Click to a specific slide and listen to the conversation that took place around the slide. Besides quickly scanning the text notes, users can also replay audio and video at up to twice normal speed. Notes can be expanded after the fact.

Visual Communicator Studio

Serious Magic also has a new product that expands the opportunities for easy capture. Visual Communicator Studio is similar to the original release in terms of being an intuitive desktop application that creates professional-looking video presentations without requiring acting or editing ability. An on-screen teleprompter becomes the timeline for transitions, text graphics, presentation slides, effects and additional images and video.

The new product expands the application’s capabilities. Besides streamlining the interface, Studio adds support for multiple cameras (ideal for interviews) and the ability to publish dynamic video-embedded Web pages. In addition to posting to a Web site or burning to a DVD, Studio now facilitates sending live output to an external monitor or streaming to the Internet. Recorded broadcasts can now have chapter markers and Web links, which can display Web pages, pictures or PowerPoint slides along with the video.

As with the company’s other applications, Studio requires only a reasonably powerful PC or laptop, rather than expensive and complex hardware and production facilities.


Steve Barth writes and speaks frequently about KM. For more on personal knowledge management, see his Web site global-insight.com

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