In a recent post I wrote about using Playlists and Playlist folders to collect and organize one’s programs. In today’s post I am going to ramble on about how to use Smart Playlists to help visualize your music, and perhaps help create your program playlists.
This post isn’t nearly exhaustive, and is only intended to get one started on using Smart Playlists to help organize one’s radio show playlists, with a few tips on Smart Playlists in general thrown in.
I keep my entire music library on a very large external hard drive, connected to my iMac in my home study. There is a second hard drive dedicated to backing up the first automatically. The iMac is the perfect spot for me to manage my program because I also have an external microphone available for creating radio spots. For transferring music from vinyl and Digital Audio Tape, I have a DAT player/recorder and a turntable connected directly to the iMac. For production and transferring I use a combination of GarageBand and Audacity, both of which are free and easy to use.
A majority of my iTunes library is a combination of the CDs I have collected over the years, my wife’s CDs from before we were married, and the collection she and I have purchased via iTunes over the years. Streaming may be the future, but with satellite Internet with severe data transfer limitations, CDs and iTunes downloads are still how I accumulate music.
When it comes to how I get music from the home library to the station, I use my second-hand iPad 2, with my iPhone 5s as my backup. I find it easier to manage playlists which sync between the iMac and the devices than to share libraries between computers. Continue reading “Gig Gear”
I organize everything associated with my radio show in one iTunes Playlist Folder titled The Lunchbox. Within The Lunchbox I get a little creative to sort things for my needs because, to the best of my knowledge, it isn’t currently possible to sort Playlists by any other method than alphabetically. The post that follows explains how I manage playlists — including Playlist Folders — to create my show each week, keep track of previous programs, track which music has or hasn’t been played (read: vetted for language), and even print notes and cues for myself to use during the show. Continue reading “Helpful Playlists and Playlist Folders”
Possibly due to my joint roles as a Technical Director at WFVR-LP and a DJ/presenter, I am often asked how I manage my iTunes library, and how I keep track of the music I have played on the air, as well as the music I must not ever play on the air. This post on ratings is the first of what I hope will be a collection of instructional articles.
This is how I manage my iTunes library when it comes to rating songs using iTunes’ 0-5 star (★) system, and my opinion that ratings don’t have to be a harsh criticism of a song, but can also used as an organizing tool. Reminder that this method is how I manage my weekly radio show, and is meant to provide flexibility and ease to large iTunes libraries. The comments will be open for a period of time after the post is live, so please share your tips. Continue reading “You Gave It How Many Stars?”
A few months ago I was asked to attend my town’s Selectboard meeting. The members of the board had some questions for me about the Vermont Open Meeting Law that had passed in 2014. Specifically about sections in the law such as these:
“In addition, the public body must post the agendas of regular and special meetings to an official website, if one exists that is maintained or has been designated as the official website.”
“Taking minutes at meetings, making those minutes available 5 days after the meeting, and posting on a website, if there is one.”
I had seen a few articles in the local papers, but I hadn’t been following the issue closely until I learned that some towns with websites were shutting them down for fear that they would not be able to comply with these sections of the law. It was then that I wondered if there was a solution. To be honest, I was trying to think of a solution that did not involve me having to be the point person for all of the committees and commissions in town that would now be required to post content on the town’s official website. I thought about how much time it would take to train all of the people who would need to use the service, and then how much time it would take to train the new people each year as groups turned over participants.
By the time my meeting with the Selectboard came about, I had a few ideas. I believed I could make the minutes part of the equation somewhat easier using some free cloud service or another. The agenda part I felt could be handled by Google Calendar as we were already using an embedded Google Calendar on the site to show town events. [IFTTT recipe I wrote to publish Google Calendar items to WordPress blog: https://ifttt.com/recipes/209340-google-calendar-wordpress]
The meeting went smoothly, the Selectboard was supportive, so I set off to try and implement them. Only to find that there were more challenges for each success. For example, one of the most popular cloud services no longer provides a public folder with their free accounts. Then there were the issues with sharing files, folders, etc. I was spinning my wheels, and after a month or so I was re-thinking the whole thing. I wasn’t ready to recommend that we shutter the town site, but I knew I needed to ask for help.
I decided to share my conundrum with members of an online community of which I am a member. There is a section of the website where people can post almost any sort of question, and other members do their best to help solve the issues and challenges. Shortly after I posted my question, suggestions were available to me. There were some great ideas, and some that had potential — but also seemed to be a lot of work. One member even spent time with me chatting online, while attempting to work through a script that would upload files to Google Drive.
However, the suggestions that helped me reach my personal solution were the ones that recommended using email due to its ubiquity and ease-of-use. The other was the suggestion to use If This Than That, or IFTTT (pronounced ift like gift without the gee).
After a few hours of learning to use IFTTT for more challenging things than I had before — I use the service to send Twitter alerts just before my radio show comes on, and stuff like that — I had that eureka moment when the whole thing came together. I had written a recipe to would translate an email with a PDF attachment into a “news” entry on the town’s WordPress-powered website. The subject of the email message becomes the title of the post. The body of the email becomes the content of the post. The attachment is referenced and linked in the body of the post. The post is automatically tagged with terms for each of the town committees. The new post is assigned to the category Minutes.
[In future posts I plan to share some of the other IFTTT recipes I have written or edited to help share this same information electronically with my Tunbridge neighbors, including via Twitter and Facebook.]
Below is my attempt to explain the steps to send minutes as PDF via email to be automatically posted on a WordPress website (self-hosted or not). WordPress is required for this process, but the great things about it are that it is free, well-documented, and easy to use.
The Process: or “The 10 Steps You Need to Know To Deal with V.O.M.L.!”
Requirements: A website that runs on WordPress or is hosted by wordpress.comor the willingness to switch to one and then follow this guide.
Create a new Gmail account (gmail.com) to use for this service. It is my opinion that it is better to use a clean Gmail address, dedicated to this processes, than a shared account.
Note: It is possible to use this process with an existing Gmail account, but I recommend using more Google search operators in the search filter TRIGGERS mention in Step 6. Also, consider using an easy-to-remember email address such as email@example.com.
Create a new If This Then That (ifttt.com) account. Consider using the email created in Step 1 to register for the free account. Again, making this a process that is self-contained has many upsides.
Before the recipe can be used, the Gmail “Channel” as well as the WordPress Channel must be activated in IFTTT. In order to activate the WordPress Channel the username and password for an active account in the WordPress install must be known. Once a channel is verified, click on the “Use Recipe” button.
Now that the IFTTT recipe is active, it can be edited to suit individual needs. Under the TRIGGER there is a link on how to use the Google Search Operators to customize the recipe.
The rest of this article will focus on a basic setup.
Notes: It is my suggestion to use PDFs rather than Word or other document types; however, other attachement types will work. If you wish to limit the type of file types that can be used to PDF it may be possible to edit the recipe by using the filename: operator. Also, it is recommended that one create individual recipes for each committee, and to use the from: Google search operator as described in Step 7 below. Employing this extra feature will mean that only approved people can post the minutes to the website. Thus limiting the chance for accidental posts from spam.
In the TRIGGER section of the recipe, change the default search in the IFTTT recipe — being sure to switch the emails in the example below — to your town’s email in the to: and the from: to the email address of the person who will be contributing minutes.
In the ACTION section (see image at right), change the Categories and Tags to suit individual needs. Consider using Minutes for the category, and a generous number of tags. Doing so will allow for custom searches and filters in WordPress — if desired — to display the posts in various ways (ex, by committee name, etc) to make it easier for citizens. So flexible!
The Body section of the ACTION can be formatted to suit individual needs. Note that some HMTL is allowed, such as formatting in bold or italics. The default recipe linked in Step 3 is designed to show something like the sample below, all of which comes from the sections of the email: Subject, Body, attachment. The Categories and tags are included by WordPress via the IFTTT recipe, which you can see in the image above.
Note: Train people of this format early, and let them know everything they include in the email will go on the web! Signature files should be removed accordingly. If it is not clear, the recipe strips any HTML from the body of the email before posting.
This is an example of the text that Committee members would include in their email, along with the attachment. It could be used to convey other information such as changes to a meeting schedule. Also, if the minutes aren’t official yet, they can be marked accordingly based on this line for the Vermont Open Meeting Law: “If it is not possible to provide the final approved minutes in five days, then a draft that is marked with words such as ‘subject to approval’ should be posted and made available.”
Category: Minutes Tags: selectboard, minutes, meetings, VOML, democracy works
As for the section of the recipe titled “Post Status”, consider changing the default setting to Save As Draft until the testing process is completed. Then change it back to Publish Immediately when ready.
To test the script, follow the instructions below in the “Using the Process” section. In order to trigger the recipe manually, click on the chasing arrow (second button from left in example below). One should see the “triggered x times” change if it was successful. Then check the website to confirm the item was posted — or is in the drafts section of your WordPress site.
Using the Process
In order to use this, contributors send an email to the town address created in Step 1 above. Contributors should include information in the Subject line that identifies from which committee the minutes come, as well as the date of the meeting. For example, “Selectboard Minutes (October 2, 2014)”. In the body, the contributors should include any information they think the citizens need to know, including whether the minutes are official or “subject to approval.” They should sign their email so that citizens know who added the minutes, and, most importantly they must include the minutes as an attachment.
Other Methods Using WordPress
Wordpress does offer the ability to post directly to a website via the Jetpack plugin; however, it does add a layer of complexity to the process that I was attempting to avoid. If you would like to learn more about this method, please visit the Jetpack support page for this topic: http://jetpack.me/support/post-by-email/
Above are the very basics of this process, and have been written with the intention of making them understandable to as many people as possible. I offer the process freely to everyone who may find them useful. However, if a town is interested in implementing the process but does not feel comfortable doing so without assistance, I am available for hire. Please feel free to contact me in that case.