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Not sound-checking properly before a Skype interview

February 14, 2019

These posts are a bit of a laugh, written so that I might learn something from my mistakes, so that you might enjoy some schadenfreude at my expense, and so that – maybe – you might learn something from my mistakes.

Other people’s adventures are compelling things. They spark wanderlust, intrigue, wonder and envy.

Comparing notes with people on the road across Canada showed me just how many people have an adventure under their belt. ‘Ordinary’ people – in addition to the published authors who wrote most of my reading list over the past few months – with stories to share.

An ambitious plan formed to meet these people, to hear and collate their stories, and to write about them.

Other People’s Adventures, it would be called. They are compelling things.

The first willing participant was Skip, whose adventure will be published shortly on this very blog. We met in July, bounced a few emails back and forth over summer, and set a date for me to interview him in November.

My usual method for interviewing is to bullet point a few questions, talk around them until the conversation flows off somewhere interesting, then frantically scribble notes to hash out into prose later. This time I thought I’d give myself a bit of a safety net by recording audio, so I could jot down time-stamps as well as scribbles.

Enter this bad boy:

Voice recorder

When you click the little microphone on the screen to record, rings dance around it which show sound being received. I clicked my fingers a couple of times, the rings danced. I assumed this meant it was all working properly.

And surely speakers built into the laptop would be close enough to the mic for it to pick up the sounds?


This is what the interview looks like:

interview waveform

Big blue vertical bits are me asking questions; short ones are me saying “mm hmm”. Blue horizontal bits are the silent periods of time where Skip was replying.

Luckily I scribbled frantically alongside the audio recording anyway, so all is not lost, but it was a dumb mistake nonetheless.

The takeaway? “Always do a soundcheck!