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June 2009: Livescribe “Pencast” Interview with Richard

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • The Livescribe Pulse Smartpen (see April Extra Fine Points) is a great tool for note taking in meetings, lectures, seminars, and — for journalists — one-on-one interviews. It would be great for job interviews, and we know there’s a lot of that going on in this scorched-earth economy. It’s better than all tools that do similar things — including the iPod’s Voice Recorder feature, which is actually a lot more useful than it looks — because your notes are keyed to an audio recording, linking your words to what was said at the moment you wrote what you did.

This isn’t a review, or an endorsement. It’s more like me mulling potential use cases and trying to determine if this device is an annoying tech bauble or a worthy pen investment. Extra Fine Points

That means when someone says something noteworthy and you’re taking minutes — or, say, a salesperson paying very close attention to what a big-fish customer is saying — you can triple-underline it, star it, or whatever you’ve done since you first started taking notes in 8th grade. When going back over the notes later, just tap on that triple-underlined word, and boom! You’re right back to that moment in the audio file.

Most digital voice recorders (DVRs) only have index marks or a beep to emphasize an interesting passage, but Livescribe’s system of “paper replay” gives you back all the nuance you put into your notes. As in, a beep can’t signify interesting vs. important vs. do-not-forget vs. “this will be on the test.”

This isn’t a review, or an endorsement, per se, of Livescribe’s pen. It’s more like me mulling potential use cases and trying to determine if this device is an annoying tech bauble or a worthy pen investment.

As a journalist who gets paid to rewrite the gist of meetings and interviews, I have to say that personally — after taking Livescribe for a two-month test drive — I am sold. And, as a pen collector, I am delighted to have a reason to consciously choose a pen over a keyboard. If I’m in a seminar and I am writing a story on one speaker or another’s deathless speech, I’ll be toting this into the room, and doing a better job of mentally writing the story — and creating a rough outline as the speaker makes his or her points — than if I were clacking away at a laptop and recording it for later. Livescribe integrates both processes at once…so it’s not just a novelty, it’s a better way of working, at least for me.

The note-taking is the first thing Livescribe pens do in an incredibly interesting — and new — way. The second thing? Note sharing, online. In roughly ten minutes, Richard and I did a quick interview to demonstrate this note-sharing, which Livescribe has cleverly dubbed “pencasting,” trading on the wild success of podcasting.

Basically, I did a very basic, impromptu interview about the pens he collects and repairs, and my notes — tied to the audio of the interview — went from pen to Web in seconds, in a tidy little Flash file without me having to program anything. The Livescribe site crunched all the code.

Before you hit “play,” understand that Richard and I are not radio professionals, and we didn’t script out any of this — so you get the ums and ohs and, we hope, inspiration for what you can do if you were to join the community of Livescribe users. Or not. Richard is contemplating doing tutorials for his site in this format — give him some feedback on what you think of this “pencasting” stuff, good, bad or ugly.

 Tip  Expand the page to full size, and click around the page to see how it works. Enjoy!

Pulse logo Further Reading: Livescribe Pulse, at
For less than the street price of a Pilot Vanishing Point, you can nail down your own personal Pulse Smartpen. Ready, set, GO!

Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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