Experiments in writing, by Marjolein Hoekstra @OneNoteC

Archive for the ‘Feedback’ Category

Creating Office Mix Closed Captions

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Ever since the Microsoft Office Mix team announced that their PowerPoint 2013 add-in was now supporting closed captions, I’ve been wanting to try it out. I’m a very strong proponent of producing videos #WithCaptions and I thank the Office Mix Team wholeheartedly for acknowledging the importance of offering this courteous feature.

When I talked to Microsoft’s Preston Peine about his #OneNoteWithPreston series, he challenged me to go for it with his most recent Office Mix presentation “Class Notebooks with Shared Computers“. It so happens that Preston – through the Mix privacy settings – made the .PPTX source of his Office Mix presentation available for remixing, so I could just download that .PPTX file and open it in my own copy of PowerPoint 2013.

For those with little time on their hands, here’s the end result of my efforts:

Preston Peine’s Mix presentation:

Class Notebooks with Shared Computers #WithCaptions


Class Notebooks with Shared Computers - with captions

Class Notebooks with Shared Computers – with captions


Why closed captions?

There are multiple reasons to caption a video. I can think of these reasons:

  • as a courtesy to the hearing-impaired
  • to support non-native speakers
  • to promote better comprehension and retention
  • for SEO motives – captions are indexed by search engines

There’s an upcoming movement that promotes video captioning. It uses the #WithCaptions hashtag on social media. For more inspiration, watch the video in this recent Upworthy article Pretty Much a No-Brainer.

The remainder of this post contains notes about my first experiences creating closed captions for Office Mix. I followed the development team’s excellent instructions for closed captions on the Office Mix Uservoice Knowledge Base, basically boiling down to a few steps. If you want to follow along with the steps in this post, make sure you have performed these three:

  1. download a copy of the original .PPTX of an Office Mix and open it in PowerPoint 2013 + Office Mix
  2. upload the new Mix to the Office Mix website, enabling offline video creation and mobile viewing
  3. downloading an .MP4 video to produce closed captions using 3rd-party services


Office Mix Closed Captions Basics

If you haven’t read up about the new Office Mix closed-captions feature, I suggest you read up about it at these two links:

Deliver Compelling Presentations Using Office Mix Slide Notes and Closed Captioning (Office Mix Team for Microsoft Office Blogs, April 14, 2015)
Office Mix – How to Add Closed Captions (Office Mix Team on Uservoice forum, continually updated tutorial)



Closed Captioning feature announcement


Using YouTube’s Subtitle Generator

To create the subtitles, I first uploaded the video version of my Office Mix to YouTube. Next, I opened the YouTube Video Manager onto the Subtitles and CC tab.

The Subtitles and CC tab of YouTube’s Video Manager


As you may know, YouTube provides automatic subtitles for videos in many languages, based on its speech recogntion technology. You can read more about this feature in YouTube Help – Automatic Captions.

The Automatic Captions feature of YouTube is the reason I first uploaded my video to YouTube. You don’t have to start from scratch, but can use the auto-generated captions provided by YouTube as your starting point.

Now, although YouTube does a fair job at speech recognition, the resulting subtitles still have to be checked and corrected manually – one by one. The YouTube caption editor is very easy to use, and probably couldn’t be made more efficient. Still, in my experience, correcting each of the captions remains a lot of work. It can help a great deal if you already have an accurate script available up front – in my case, I didn’t.

More about editing auto-captions here: YouTube Help – Edit Captions

A tiny hurdle is that YouTube doesn’t natively support the file format .TTML that is required by Office Mix, so I ended up exporting the subtitles intermediately in the .SRT format. See which subtitle formats are supported by YouTube, and why the .TTML subtitle format that is required by Office Mix isn’t one of them, in YouTube Help – Upload subtitles and closed captions


Converting subtitle file format .SRT to .TTML

The next hurdle was how to convert YouTube’s closed-captioning format .SRT to .TTML, the format required by Office Mix. I discovered that the free video captioning service Amara lets you add existing .SRT subtitle files to imported YouTube videos, and also lets you export those subtitles again in .DFXP format. The DFXP subtitle format turns out to be compatible with .TTML.

Exporting Amara subtitles into the TTML-compatible DFXP file format

Exporting Amara subtitles into the TTML-compatible DFXP file format

Two Amara help pages are relevant here:

How to add existing subtitles, captions, or transcripts to videos

How do I download subtitles and translations from a video on Amara?


Final step: adding the subtitles file to Office Mix Online

Office Mix Online requires the import file for your subtitles to have the .TTML file extension. Now that turned out easy enough: if you simply edit the file extension of the .DFXP file (downloaded from Amara) and rename it to .TTML, Office Mix Online will accept it.

Office Mix Online successfully imported the TTML file

Office Mix Online successfully imported the TTML file


Have you tried your hand at creating closed captions for Office Mix yet? How did you do it?


The CNET Ultimate RSS Make-Over

with 7 comments

"Please, CNET, look at these screenshots, read my comments on each of
them, and then tell me if you agree your website is in desperate need of a
make-over with respect to RSS support."

I don’t often use CleverClogs to rant about things or to complain about broken websites, but as I currently lack a proper connection to anyone responsible for the underwhelming implementation of RSS functionality at CNET, I’m publishing some complaints here in a hopeful attempt that someone with enough influence will consider my feedback as constructive criticism and will have the suggested improvements carried out.

What I’m offering here is like a blueprint, a checklist to see if you really are offering your visitors everything you could be offering with regard to RSS technology. I hope others will benefit from this also.


Things to fix on the CNET RSS feeds landing page:

  • Use the common feed icon instead of the old-age XML one—not just on this page, but throughout the CNET domain. This icon is available for download in all kinds of formats and sizes from
  • Get rid of the abundance of ugly feed reader chicklets. A repetitive page such as this one hurts on the eyes, distracts from the actual list of feeds and makes me want to close the page straight away. Instead, rely on the browser-friendly feed subscription landing pages offered by FeedBurner, or use the attractive Subscribe button offered by iFeedReaders:


    Once people indicate that they want to subscribe by clicking on a button, you can offer them the list of supported feed readers. iFeedReaders offers you a whole bunch of chicklets, including your own NewsBurst, and it allows your visitors to subscribe by email through RMail and FeedBlitz.

  • Increase the number of items in each feed to at least 30.
  • Offer full-length rich-media feeds instead of just the first sentence of every post.
  • Provide an OPML for each section, or even better: let your readers select to which feeds they want to subscribe, and create a custom OPML for them on the fly. Use the standard OPML icon available from
  • Make any OPML that you provide auto-discoverable by using the <link rel> tag in the header of your HTML source.
  • Run your feeds through a feed validator. I’m saying this because a number of errors show up when validating your feeds. I also notice heaps of empty lines when investigating their source.
  • Provide links to the HTML versions of each of your columns: "Business Tech" on the feeds page would logically be hyperlinked to the Business Tech column.
  • Fix the discrepancy between the number of blogs mentioned in the sidebar of each blog (I count 37) and the number of blog feeds listed on the RSS feeds landing page (I count 28). I trust this is caused by the (recent?) additon of several new blogs.
  • Don’t make me guess what each of your blogs has to offer. Put a Grazr widget in your sidebar that allows me to browse live other blogs/feeds/columns that might be of interest. You could even offer your readers keyword and keyphrase search among all of your feeds and let them generate custom-keyword feeds from their searches. For an example, see the one designed for the Power 150 by Todd And.


CNET’s prompt to subscribe to a specific keyword by email looks promising at first glance, but it’s a real disappointment once you click through.

Here are some suggestions for CNET Alerts:

  • Allow readers to select from which CNET sources they want to receive alerts: from specific columns, from any favorite authors, from selected blogs.
  • Don’t just offer e-mail alerts—provide the whole range of output options: e-mail, My News, RSS, IM, web widgets, SMS. There are plenty of RSS tool vendors who can assist in setting up gateways to enable these channels. With the risk of leaving out others, I suggest you consider at least the services ZapTXT, Feed Crier and MuseStorm.
  • Offer the option to subscribe to a single news post with its comments. You can use RSS for this, or so-called microformats.
  • Fix the bug that allowed me to create the following appalling screenshot (note the spelling error)


Someone at CNET has been sleeping over the past few years. A whole truckload full of RSS and search techniques has become available in the recent years and in my opinion CNET is not offering enough of these to its readers.

Please use the comments section to share your ideas.

Update: I just realized I can use Bitty Browser to show you the live number of Diggs that this story has received:

Written by CleverClogs

February 12th, 2007 at 5:28 pm

Search Clouds Increase Relevance of Search Results

with 3 comments

On reflection it’s actually striking that so far Google hasn’t embraced any kind of topic clustering functionality outside of its ’Similar Pages’ feature. I’m not the only one to feel this need: recently Arc90 lead architect Joel Nagy also investigated into this area and quietly published about the research he did into contextual relevance of pages found through search queries, with ’Search Clouds’ as the central idea.

No matter how precise your keyword query, search engines don’t always produce the type of results that is relevant for your research goal. So far I’ve constructed hundreds of compound and advanced search queries myself and each time I’m surprised about the noise that inevitably slips into the search results. Some of these erroneous results can only be detected with the human brain. Yesterday, for example, Fred Zelders sent me an email message to inform me about an irrelevant search result in one of the blog search feeds in RSSonate, my RSS-in-the-blogosphere monitor. I really needed to read the post to which he referred twice before I could confirm he was correct in his observation:


Surprisingly RSS in this case stands for ’Random Shutdown Syndrome’, an ailment from which quite a few Macbooks notebook computers seem to suffer, where apparently they start to randomly reboot themselves. On further investigation I was actually stunned to discover that AbbreviationZ (an afiiliate of lists 40 additional ways to resolve the abbreviation RSS.

Fred’s feedback is expecially valuable to me because he is very knowledgeable about RSS and OPML technology. I know he subscribes to RSSonate ever since I launched it and in turn I often visit FeedFiles—a comprehensive repository of RSS tools—to see if he or his son perhaps already reviewed.the RSS tools I’m discovering. Fred’s blog Fred on OPML is in English, his other writings seem to all be exclusively in Dutch.

Over the years I’ve seen a couple of initiatives and attempts to cluster search results around topics of interest. Clusty immediately comes to mind of course. Another way to improve the precision/noise ratio is by using advanced syntax techniques, like category, tag or in-title search.The major search engines and some of the blog search engines offer query modifiers like these to improve the search results. Other engines allow you to indicate the scope of your search: for example, commercial vs non-commercial search results. If I recall well Yahoo! offers this, but as a search engine it just won’t click with me.

On reflection it’s actually striking that so far Google hasn’t embraced any kind of topic clustering functionality outside of it’s ’Similar Pages’ feature. I’m not the only one to feel this need: recently Arc90 lead architect Joel Nagy also investigated into this area and quietly published about the research he did into contextual relevance of pages found through search queries, with ’Search Clouds’ as the central idea. Joel mocked up this impression of what a Google search query containing the words ’Nintendo’ ’Wii’ ’launch’ and ’date’ could look like if it were accompanied by Search Clouds:


I like the implications of Joel’s research: it clearly shows how useful it would be to have his concept of Search Clouds implemented in search engines, giving an immediate clue which page could be most relevant to my research goal. Imagine that in my search engine profile I could also maintain a persistent list of tags and keywords; Search Clouds would then be able to visually indicate to what extent a search result is likely to match my profile…

The Arc90 sandbox Arc90 Lab has been on my radar ever since I discovered their Link Thumbnail feature, about which I blogged a few months ago in my blog post Pull Quote Mystery. It’s rewarding and encouraging that Chris LoSacco from Arc90 indeed followed up to the promise he made in the comments section on CleverClogs, saying Joel would continue to improve the usability of Link Thumbnail: in the blog post Updated : New Link Thumbnail Goodness Chris announces that they now rely on the new thumbnail service WebSnapr instead of Alexa.

Note that there’s no download or web service to Joel’s project yet. I would appreciate it if he’d continue working on Search Clouds. I’d be delighted to provide extensive feedback if and when he needs it. Tell me, what techniques do you use to fine-tune your search results?

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Written by CleverClogs

October 23rd, 2006 at 4:14 pm

Improving the Microsoft RSS Experience

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"Though late at the party at times, Microsoft clearly does listen to feedback from industry analysts, for example to the unsolicited and blunt criticism Dave Geek-For-Life Brunelle provided after Microsoft’s underwhelming launch of their corporate feed directory."

With a series of posts Dave Morehouse—program manager to the Microsoft MSCOM Communities Team—bowed last week to the many suggestions to improve the Directory of Microsoft Feeds. Morehouse specifically addresses complaints that Dave Brunelle expressed in his post Microsoft Needs to Fix Their RSS Experience regarding lack of consistency and lack of accessibility. Quoting Morehouse’s article More on the MSCOM RSS Experience:

  • Make OPML available for any category or grouping of feeds in the directory
  • Add to the directory social bookmarking features, including
    alternative navigation metaphors based on tagging–e.g., tag clouds and
    the like. Essentially, we’d step away from formal controlled
    vocab, taxonomy-based categorization schemes and step into the world of
    folksonomy. The question we will have to resolve is how to reconcile
    the two; perhaps the latter would completely supersede the former.
  • Implement tagging and user recognition controls across the network
    as well as on participating third-party community (and possibly
    partner) sites.
  • Give customers the ability to create their own feeds and OPML
    collections of Microsoft-related resources, based on their and others’

In the earlier related post The Strategic Importance of RSS, Morehouse himself bravely quotes an email message from a German member of his team, Klaus [Klaus Who?—mh], who suggests adopting the following value propositions:

  • RSS is a strategic movement. It builds the foundation for innovative ways of communication (PodCast, Blogs, viral Marketing)
  • RSS and Blogs together will enable us to reach business customers with a minimum of investments
  • RSS is the ideal technology to establish content distribution to either other sites on, sites owned by Microsoft Partners and at least sites whose are totally external (e.G. Ford or Citibank)
  • RSS is the easiest way to increase your reach if you don’t have enough budgets. A RSS-Feed works as a multiplicator. Use Google to check which sites are referring to an rss-feed. 763 results for the security bulletin ( is a clear statement!
  • RSS is state of the art – WE CAN’T WAIT ANY LONGER
  • The competitors in the market have already adopted the technology (look at:
  • The customers are expecting to see new technologies on our web-pages
  • Finally, it is also a matter of image 😉

While I was scanning Morehouse’s blog I found another proof of his clear thinking in the post What are some potential applications of tagging?, in which Dave lists over 20 exemplified and categorized use cases for a tagging solution of the Microsoft web service. Final quote, this time by way of a screenshot:


I’m pleasantly surprised by the Morehouse’s apparent candidness and that of his team members regarding their current positioning in the minefield of RSS technology. Though late at the party at times, Microsoft clearly does listen to feedback from industry analysts. What’s even nicer is that Dave Brunelle, in turn, acknowledges and even praises Morehouse’s openheartedness: and the RSS Experience.

With or without the Freedbacking tag, it seems Chris Pirillo’s plea last June to channel and leverage constructive developer feedback is finding shape. I personally submit loads of bug reports to all kinds of software vendors. Some do follow up, some unfortunately don’t. A logical question might be: in such an exponentially growing landscape of bloggers, software and web services how can feedback submitters and their followers monitor which of the issues that they bring up has adequately been addressed? Can we have a conversation on that particular aspect of consumer interaction?

Oh, and to close off for today, here’s a friendly, freedbacking wink to all my fellow TagJag lovers:


Written by CleverClogs

September 8th, 2006 at 12:37 pm

Posted in Feedback,RSS