As much as I read content from the web — either through a feed reader (I’m currently favouring RssOwl) or a browser (I read with Firefox, and post comments with Flock and Cocomment) — there are times when I want my eyes and hands to be free. I maintain a queue of MP3 audio recordings on a Creative Zen V for listening when walking or driving, and subsequently report on lectures and interview worth noting on the Media Input Queue blog.
The content on this Coevolving Innovations blog is text intensive — people who prefer photos are better to follow the Distractions, Reflections blog — so I have sympathies for readers who find the length tedious.
I was following through on some dialogue on mentoring from Sacha Chua (@sachac) to a blog post by Brian O’Donovan on social software (@bodonovan). I noticed he had a “Listen” button on the entry, so I pressed it … triggering an automated reading of the content in a woman’s voice. This experiment gave me a close-to-perfect reproduction of the text content (and I could guess the meaning of the mispronunciations).
Following through the links, I discovered ReadSpeaker webReader, which originated as a service for the visually impaired. For personal web sites, webSpeaker Free is an ad-supported service (with pre and/or post audio, and banners in the player). It took me less than ten minutes to install on this WordPress blog (as one of the benefits of self-hosting on my own domain).
I noticed that Brian preferred a female voice with a British accent. I’ve tried that, and the American male voice, and somehow find the American female voice the easiest to my ear.
The structure of WordPress plugins makes adding and removing ReadSpeaker webReader easy, so the added function will be another natural experiment over time.