Sound Advice

I’m sure its a pretty universal response to any detailed discussion or meeting involving a whiteboard for at least one person involved to take a photo with their phone. It’s often useful, and even if you never look at it again, it only takes a moment and costs nothing. Of course, helpful as it is, a photo certainly doesn’t capture all of a discussion and it can still be difficult after the fact to remember important details.

A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me to make a little more use of a perhaps overlooked form of capture to fill in some of the gaps - audio recording. As with cameras, audio recording is another of those functions which, in the past, would have required a dedicated device, but has now been conveniently rolled up as just another feature for most phones these days, making it simple to do.

So for a few weeks I’ve kept my phone close to hand when I go to discuss some part of the system or domain with someone. Then, if the discussion is getting particularly detailed I’ve been hitting record rather than trying to scrawl it all down or assuming I’ll remember everything.

Its been quite useful so far, especially in situations where someone very knowledgeable, in either system or domain, goes beyond the detail you can take in at once. Rather than loose all that detail, I can now go back to it after the initial layer has sunk in, at which point the rest of the discussion often makes a lot more sense.

Of course there are a couple of things to consider. As a matter of etiquette, if not legality, I always check the person I'm speaking with is happy to be recorded, which so far, they have been. As with everything it helps to use some common sense too, if the act of recording is distracting from what your trying to record then its counter productive - you don’t want people feeling they are being interviewed all the time and clamming up. Then there is the storage of the recordings, which are only as useful as your ability to find them again. So I transfer them to my pc and file them away with a decent name straight away, sometimes adding a companion text file with a note or two about the contents.

Its not exactly a shocking new revolution in technology or a silver bullet by any means, but it took a while to occur to me that it would be as useful as it has been so I thought it justified this little blog post.