The Beginnings of a Tech Review Process Workflow and Checklist

a checklistAs I mentioned in my last post, I’m starting to experiment a bit with tech reviews of hardware and software appealing to novice and more experienced digital scholars and digital storytellers. I’ll be writing most of the reviews for the Center for Digital Storytelling blog, and those will later be posted here with a month lag-time. I’ll also write a few just for this site, if they aren’t all that relevant for digital storytellers. That said, I’m trying to find ways of being more productive, focused, and efficient when it comes to my professional work. One of the things I’m going to work on is putting together checklists for tasks which require not only creative/critical thinking, but which also require a relatively automated and complicated workflow. So I thought I could work out this process workflow and checklist here in a public post. Here’s what I’ve got so far…

Produce some texts.

Test the hardware or software with micro texts. For audio products, make short audio recordings. These tests should be very short. Provide logical comparisons. If you’re reviewing a microphone, keep the recording set up the same, but switch to a different microphone.

Make an actual text with the hardware or software. This will force you to use the product in a variety of situations, and it will offer a more comprehensive understanding of its function throughout the entire production process. For the sake of conserving your creative energy, you might consider reproducing a previous text in some way, rather than producing new content.

Create quality audio and visual elements.

Produce quality photos and/or video for use in a written review. Luckily, it’s possible to produce quality images with something as ubiquitous as a smart phone, but an entry level DSLR with a kit lens can produce impressive results for both still images and the video you might shoot. Here, lighting is key. If you can get your work surface near daylight, you won’t have to worry about getting the lighting right. Otherwise, it might be a good idea to invest in some portable lighting. This might or might not apply if you’re producing a video review, but in some cases you might want to produce some discrete pieces which can be embedded within a written review.

Use your own photos/videos/audio to add authenticity of the review. DIY audio/visual elements imply or demonstrate that you actually used the product, and they strengthen your ethos as a reviewer. They also allow you to frame shots in ways that better convey what you’re after. For instance if you’re trying to illustrate a design flaw or a software bug, you will almost certain need to produce your own image to show it. There are also copyright advantages, but more on that below.

Share the resources.

Post the video, photos, and audio elements to public sharing spaces. Use a Creative Commons license. You might want to consider platforms like Flickr, Instagram, YouTube, Vimeo, or Soundcloud. There are lots of reasons for this advice. You might think about the shared resources like breadcrumbs leading back to your review. If someone runs across one of your resources on Flickr or Soundcloud, they might follow the link you provide back to your review.

Embed the posted raw elements in your written review. You can embed the materials, rather than hosting them yourself. This benefit is especially handy if you’re writing a review for a site other than your own. It allows them more user-friendly access to incorporating them into your written text on their own site. Embedding from sharing services also reduces the amount of material you have to host and traffic from your own server. Hosting some of the raw elements of your review on other sites allows readers to reuse them. That is they might borrow one of you images for their own review, or repost it to a more generic social network like Facebook or Twitter.

License your content with a Creative Commons license. Most sharing sites now have some sort of licensing choices built into the uploading process. Creating your own images offers you rights-control of the images in the review. It also protects you from breaking copyright by using someone else’s images or sounds. Using a Creative Commons license will encourage others to share, reuse, or remix your resources, again supporting the circulation of the work.

Produce multiple reviews.

Produce multiple reviews in across more than one medium and/or for a variety of audiences. In my last post, I covered a lot of ideas about what sorts of information might be most useful/productive in a tech review for digital scholars or storytellers. I also offered some ideas about strategies for structuring that information. So for that sort of content, I encourage you to check out the previous post. Just make sure you’re thoughtful about how you’re appealing to each audience and that you’re choosing the right venue, platform, and media for than audience. YouTube is starting to become the Powerpoint of product reviews, in that it is now the overwhelming default choice for reviewers, regardless of whether or not the review might work better in Soundcloud or as a written piece.

Get the reviews circulating.

Post the reviews to Facebook, Twitter, and whatever other social networks you use frequently. This one is a no-brainer, but it’s also the most important. It’s the core of getting your review seen.

Shop the review to other appropriate venues. This strategy won’t likely pay much if any money, but it should help with circulation. This strategy can be especially useful if you’re writing the review as an opportunity to market something else.

Checklist

  • create microtexts
  • produce an example text
  • take photos,
  • take videos
  • record screen captures
  • post to Flickr, CC license, tag
  • post to YouTube, CC license, tag
  • post to Vimeo, CC license, tag
  • post to SoundCloud, CC license, tag
  • pin images to Pinterest
  • produce written review; send to client if applicable
  • produce audio review
  • upload to SoundCloud, CC license, tag
  • produce video review
  • upload to YouTube, CC license, tag
  • upload to Vimeo, CC license, tag
  • query sites to place review
  • schedule unplaced reviews for posting on own site

 

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