Friday, November 23, 2007

Writing Blogging Heroes, Part 3 (Logistics)

In Part 2 of this series, I talked about selecting and contacting the interviewees for Blogging Heroes. The interviews themselves would be conducted by telephone because the book’s schedule permitted no traveling.

Why didn’t I just ask questions via e-mail? There’s a tendency for someone replying by e-mail to keep the answers short, whereas a good interview requires lengthy and detailed responses. The same thing applies to instant messaging. But talking is easy. As easy as…well…talking. And a live conversation produces a spontaneous interplay that generates replies that would not happen in e-mail. There’s also the advantage of audio cues. Tone, speed of speech, throat-clearing, laughter, and so forth add a depth of meaning to words that e-mail can never do.

So I worked e-mail, setting up a small list of interview appointments that would quickly become self-culling. I also scored promises from others to set up an appointment “... some time next week.” Okay, I thought, these are busy people, blogging day and night. Plus, the spring trade show season had started. While I was scheduling the interviews, I worked out the rest of the logistics. I had on hand a Sony digital audio recorder, a stable landline digital phone set, and a Radio Shack 43-1237 phone coupler, plus backup equipment. A USB connector would squirt the recordings to my PC’s hard drive. Zip, zap, pow!

The system was in place. I had completed three interviews. Then my interview subjects began dropping like parity bits coming into a serial port. A couple of people cancelled, pleading lack of time. Others who had promised to set something up “next week” asked to set it up the following week, or the week after that.

For some people, it’s difficult to conceive of being too busy to take an hour, or even a half hour, to chat. But more than one of this book’s interviewees were in exactly that situation. When you have several million readers, and maybe a bunch of writers to supervise, it’s can be difficult to break away. But several who really couldn’t spare the time rescheduled something else—for which I will be eternally grateful.

Still, a number of interview subjects did cancel, and there was nothing for it but to dig in and line up more interview subjects. Fortunately there are lots of interesting bloggers who are good writers and have large followings. So I dug in and lined up more interviews. The book is actually the better for it, because I obtained interviews that I wouldn’t have thought about if everything had just fallen into place.

Chasing down the interviews I did get was often a chore. Coordinating schedules—whether across continental time zones or the International Date Line—was the least of the logistical problems. Several subjects forgot about their interview appointments and weren’t available when I called. Reschedule. On at least two occasions, I forgot a telephone appointment. Reschedule. That wasn’t the only human error. There were misaddressed e-mails and wrong numbers. Not all of the interviews recorded properly. Reschedule.

Many of the bloggers were of course using the latest telephone equipment, which of course meant that calls were dropped in new, leading-edge ways. All but one of the dropped calls—some of which had to be resumed at a later date—were in the United States. The only international call dropped was a Skype link to New Zealand. But we were able to pick up the conversation within seconds.

Once I had a few interviews in the can, so to speak, it was time for transcription and editing ...

Copyright © 2007, Michael A. Banks

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