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February 17, 2012 9:25 AM   Subscribe

I am the IT Manager for a small public access tv station and I've been roped into doing a segment on our weekly news show and I have absolutely no idea what to do.

Between now and Tuesday, I have to write a 2 minute tech talk segment for our news show. I have absolutely no idea what to write. I can easily talk about advanced technology topics, but I've been told that the piece must be "for the masses". I've got my head buried in linux boxes and perl all day; I'm not exactly up on the technological pulse of the masses. Help me figure out some good topics?

Bonus round: I'll be reading all of this off of a teleprompter. I've never done that before, so I'm not entirely sure how to write the piece to an appropriate length. Any advice?
posted by Cat Pie Hurts to Technology (29 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Spam control, recognizing phishing attempts, filtering email, how to subscribe and listen to podcasts, using an RSS reader, upgrading RAM. The list is endless! Talk to every square you can about what bugs them about computers, the barista, the bus driver, your family members, your coworkers, etc.

I think there's a rule of thumb for words vs. time, 200 words per minute max or something. Eventually you could work your way up into just having a 2min screencast, unless they really want your face as much as your brain onscreen, but that would allow you to do everything in advance.
posted by rhizome at 9:30 AM on February 17, 2012

What's the age demographic for the news show? That could help narrow down topics.
posted by mireille at 9:33 AM on February 17, 2012

Response by poster: The average age of our news viewers is 60.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 9:37 AM on February 17, 2012

If you're not sure of the demographics, it may help to know when the show airs. For instance, if it's a mid-day news program, it'll mainly be watched by unemployed people, homemakers/stay-at-home parents and the elderly. Generally, "how to not get scammed/ripped off" is always a good topic. So is "how to find a job using the internet."
posted by griphus at 9:38 AM on February 17, 2012

"here are some of the ways people are keeping in touch with the internet!"

I'd focus particularly on photo sharing sites and facebook. Because 60yo folks with grandkids are all about looking at pics of the grandkids.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:40 AM on February 17, 2012

Given your average viewer age, basic e-mail and stuff like that, as rhizome mentioned, but also technology accessibility tips! How to increase your contrast or adjust your font size to make things easier to read! Screen magnifiers! That kind of stuff! (I work in IT at a nonprofit that helps people with disabilities, and my coworker who is blind just got a new PC, so these are things I am thinking about a lot lately.)
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:40 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might also want to browse AskMe for "how do I help my parents do X on the computer?" whether X is upload photos to a sharing site, start a simple blog, make a Facebook account or just any other really basic stuff.
posted by griphus at 9:41 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Honestly, just read the tech page on Huffington Post or the front page of reddit and re-write whatever story catches your interest.

That's what 90% of local news reporters do, anyway.
posted by empath at 9:41 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, and would it be possible to have a single useful portal web page URL displayed at the bottom of the screen? Like and from there you can link people to facebook, snopes, wikipedia, flickr, and picasa etc. so most of your two minutes is explaining what cool things the internet can do and where to get more info, then provide them with a place to get more info.
posted by rmd1023 at 9:42 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Thought it might be. Perhaps a running "Protect Yourself From..." or "Internet Safety" segment? Some resources for ideas.
posted by mireille at 9:42 AM on February 17, 2012

Agree with the 'keeping in touch' angle.

And throw in some bling, too. Think about what you would show an aged parent. Had my father over one night when he came into the living room, a photo of of grandson was showing on the screen. Then it started a conversation -- and Dad was seeing Skype.

The other day I showed him Night Sky on the iPhone.

Just Googling is a fascinating experience.

Have fun, I'm sure you'll do great.
posted by LonnieK at 9:44 AM on February 17, 2012

60 years old, there's nothing specific *at all* you'd want to share. Instead, you want to talk about something extremely high-level and not really about the technology per se.

- Where can you go for free technical support, beyond friends and family?
- Where can you go to use a computer for free when your internet is down?
- How can you protect yourself on the internet (high-level advice: don't open emails from people you don't know, and similar.)

You get the idea. Keep in mind the person who "roped" you into this for "the masses" is probably just trying to fill time, and since it is public access it isn't all that serious (I don't mean this in a demeaning way, I used to support public access folks back in the day, I'm just saying nobody will get fired/no money will be lost/no careers will be ruined if your topic sucks) you should pick a topic you can speak about without having to memorize or write anything.

Once you've got a topic, go into the studio a few times a day and just talk to the camera about your topic, timing yourself. Or practice in front of a wall, staring at a point on it. Once you've got an idea for how you enjoy talking about it, then record yourself, transcribe it, fix anything you got wrong, and there's your script.
posted by davejay at 9:46 AM on February 17, 2012

Inspired by this comment, I'd suggest looking into what sort of required forms and the like your target demo can/must complete online now and do a bit on that. (Maybe social security or medicare/medicaid?)
posted by Wretch729 at 9:46 AM on February 17, 2012

(and yes, that does mean you'll be all "um, er, so, hello! and, uh, i'd like to talk to you about the internet" on your first few verbal unscripted attempts, but that's the point, to work through those so that you get to the meat of it eventually, and then suddenly you'll find you're getting to the meat of it right away, then you'll find you're embellishing and refining, then you write it down.)
posted by davejay at 9:48 AM on February 17, 2012

Teach people to use Alt-F (or Option-F) to search the screen they're on. I heard somewhere that 90% of people don't do this at all, but doing it can make you far far more efficient at searching for content.
posted by Sunburnt at 9:49 AM on February 17, 2012

"how to google an error message"

- write it down word for word
- use quotation marks to search for a phrase
- here are websites that have lots of computer support
- go to your local library for more

More next week, thanks!

I asked a question a while ago on word length for TV that might be useful.
posted by jessamyn at 9:51 AM on February 17, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think you're dumbing this down too much. Most people at 60 or near abouts to it (it's an average right?) know how to use a computer. I'd focus on value add topics, things that apply universally:

Topics I have focussed on with my older generation friends and family:

1) Password security and the use of password managers - 1Password, Roboform, etc, and the selection of passwords - for example 4 random words is both more secure and easier to remember than 8 random digits.

2) Privacy and the internet - If it's on the internet, it is not private.

3) Confirmation and common sense - if you get an email from someone and it doesn't look ok, call up who it is and confirm it before replying. Exercise basic common sense and trust, but verify.

I'd focus in other words, on broad topics that have broad value and that can extend teaching in to other areas.
posted by iamabot at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2012

"See it, say it" is your motto. The pictures tell the story. Rather than just having you face the camera and talk, use some visuals. Reading off a prompter is far, far harder than it looks. Write it out, rehearse it, and then see if you and the director can figure out some camera cues to make this more visually interesting and useful.

Close-up on lap-top screen as you talk, etc..
posted by Ideefixe at 9:54 AM on February 17, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't make it too easy!!

My dad is 70 and way into things like editing video, skype, and he is currently trying to develop softtware for use by his eye doctor, taking a community centre class to learn to do it. He has a whole crowd of guys he knows who are into this stuff and has a macho techno competitive thing going with my uncle that is really extreme.

Since you are linux savvy could you talk about "how programmers think"? Or "how software is designed, and improved in the on line community"? He would like that, would probably go check it out.

The problem solving process inherent to programming will be familiar to any DIY types, and people who have run their own businesses, even if they do home repairs, and this can be a way in to the subject.

Other brainstorm:

Inside the box - how is it made? remove/replace hard drive. Cleaning it! My dad used to assemble all sorts of radio shack electronics (televisions, radios), so the build process would be interesting. I bet many who fix their own cars would feel the same.

Computerized sewing (for my mom)

I also second the photos thing-- my parents like that.

Finally, "Weird things the grandkids say and where they come from" (arrow to the knee, etc). Some they don't want to know, of course.
posted by chapps at 10:09 AM on February 17, 2012

How to find videos on YouTube! I think they'd be thrilled with it.
posted by ignignokt at 10:47 AM on February 17, 2012

I think "why you should have different passwords for all your online accounts" and here's how to create easy ones is a good pair of topics. It seems to play well for my 30something friends when I fall into it.

For a simple summary:

We also have a problem around here with thieves masquerading as Microsoft Customer Support calling folks and asking them to type commands into the C: prompt on their machines. That is a warning EVERYONE should hear.

Finally, I'd like to remind our readers that 60 isn't necessarily old - my parents are almost 70 and have smartphones, secure passwords and a passing familiarity with all the stuff online that would be of interest to them. Howeveer, they don't watch much TV news, and are therefore likely not your target audience. :)
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 10:51 AM on February 17, 2012

For inspiration, check out the great videos from Google's Teach Parents Tech project. These topics are geared toward absolute novices—but you'll obviously want to mix up difficulty levels, as you'll presumably have viewers of all levels. (And it may make more sense to focus on smartphones than on desktop computers at this time.)
posted by anirvan at 11:28 AM on February 17, 2012

Oh, and another thing - a bunch of people are about to be dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age as more government services (even retirement-related stuff including social security payments) shift to requiring people to do things online. So there's some fodder -- how to fill out social security and medicare/medicaid stuff online. How to wrangle unemployment forms online.
posted by rmd1023 at 1:17 PM on February 17, 2012

Re: the teleprompter and general television writing:

- Write for the ear, not for the page - go for the simpler word than perhaps the more complicated one that you would write. Like I just did - I mean I would never say "perhaps" in real life when I could say "maybe" - it works totally fine typed out but would sound faintly ridiculous out loud. It's ok to write out "What you've got to remember is..." if that is what you would say more naturally than "What you ought to remember is."

- Keep sentence structure very simple and short and clear. It is almost comical how simplistic television news writing is. If a sentence can be broken up into two sentences, do it. Your viewers will have a much easier time following you and you'll very much appreciate the break and opportunity for breath. You will only see a few lines of words onscreen at a time - maybe just over a dozen words max - and there's nothing worse then suddenly being stricken with the realization, mid-sentence, that you have no idea how much longer this interminable clause is going to go on and there are so many damn commas and you may not have gotten enough saliva out of the way and you're running out of air and arg crap choke.

- In each sentence, CAPS the words or phrases that are the main point of emphasis - the impact, to cue you on where you should punch the words when you read off the prompter. "Today, we'll be talking about PASSWORDS. THREE tips that will keep your computer SECURE." Notice you don't even have to write a complete sentence - we speak in sentence fragments a lot and it sounds natural.

- Along the same vein as thinking about the words that have impact - keep those verbs active and present tense if you are being instructional - you are taking people through the moment. "A phrase was entered into the search bar" vs "Enter the phrase in the search bar."

Happy to edit your script for the prompter if you need, just memail. This is going to be fun!
posted by sestaaak at 2:29 PM on February 17, 2012

Best answer: Have a hook! Do a something that's easy to repeat, like a Stat Of The Week ("there are 750 million people on Facebook!") or one heartwarming tech story every week (most big tech company's blogs live to share these things). Just doing tech tips is great, but it's hard to know how broadly applicable those will be, as compared to more instantly accessible nuggets of factual info.

You could almost do "what tech company got in trouble this week" with a plain English explanation, and always have new material.
posted by anildash at 8:38 PM on February 17, 2012

Cool! If I were in your shoes, I'd try to hunt down old episodes of TechTV's shows starring Leo Laporte (i.e. The Screensavers and some Call For Help).
posted by yaymukund at 10:59 PM on February 17, 2012

Nthing the advice not to dumb it down too much. The average 60 year olds I know find posts on the level of what The Older Geek blogs about to be useful.
posted by gudrun at 5:29 AM on February 18, 2012

I know exactly what to talk about. As an IT guy talk about the fake virus scan things. PLEASE . Its something the masses need to know about. Show them a picture of the window that pops up and tell them NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!! dont click on it.

The easiest way to get one of these up for a screen shot is through google images.
posted by majortom1981 at 7:01 AM on February 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the tips! I wound up doing the piece on phishing. Other than the fact that my neck completely disappeared, and my face looks really weird on camera, and I looked like I gained 200lbs, it went really well, and we're talking about this being a permanent segment!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:19 PM on February 22, 2012 [1 favorite]

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