In my adventures this weekend to get Firefox 3 working like Firefox 2 I must have visited dozens of websites that discuss the best add-ons and tweaks, but on one of them I found what I wasn't expecting: an audio version of what I was reading.
Intrigued, I listened to the post after I read it. Then, being as anti-AOL-centric as I am, I thought: What if I gave unhappy AOLers an audio version of my blog? So I signed up with Odiogo to find out. The results were interesting - and somewhat hilarious.
- I am the "narrator" of Anti-AOL - and I am a girl. Having a man read my posts to the public is disconcerting - and funny - since he is not talking in my voice. He can't - not unless "he" has an Odiogo "sex change".
- The narration technology is uneven in quality. It's surprisingly good at inflecting words exactly where you would expect some inflection, but surprisingly bad at handling the lack of punctuation inherent in headings and lists. Instead of pausing for a second or two after "reading" a heading or list item, the narrator attaches those to the next sentence without coming up for air. No human being would read the text that way out loud - and that too makes Odiogo pretty funny.
- For a male voice it is surprisingly rich and even, but if an article lacks the proper inflective words his narration will, too, making his delivery sound stale and robotic. My most recent post on Anti-AOL gives several good examples of his inability to add inflection that he couldn't find in the first place. That made me cringe.
- Which brings me to my last point: Odiogo could be an excellent editing tool for bloggers who want to sharpen their "voice" - but it can't be used for editing non-public posts.
The reason I think Odiogo could be an excellent tool for editing your posts - and for finding and sharpening your "voice" - is that in hearing your posts spoken out loud, you can hear everything that's wrong with them - run-on sentences, too many uses of the acronym "AOL", the limitations of headings and lists, and so on.
The best advice you'll ever get from the hundreds, if not thousands of websites that focus on how to make you a better blogger is this: Find your voice. Use it, sharpen it, live in it. Make it an essential part of your image. If I can't pick your voice out from the millions of other voices online and know that it's "you", then you aren't trying hard enough. I think most bloggers need more practice in this area. I know I do.
If you have iTunes or Windows Media Player installed you can listen to a few posts from Anti-AOL to get an idea of how a text-to-speech service like Odiogo might help people get a firmer grip on what you blog about, and how it might even help you improve what you write by sharpening your "voice".