The listening pen

The world of writing has a new tool, described in last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. You use the Livescribe pen to take notes on special paper, and it records the sound of whatever you’re listening to. When you tap the point on a note later, the pen replays the sound that produced that note.

To capture a quotation, you don’t have to write down something like this: Pete Wells-“The whole idea of mise en place tortures me.”

You just scribble “mise” or “mep” or whatever. Touch the pen to that jotting later, and the pen plays back the quotation. It’s like writing down the counter numbers on a digital recorder for important things, so you can listen later.

Ideally, this device would free interviewers to spend less effort on getting things down in the notebook, with more time and energy to process what the speaker’s saying. Transfer the notes to a computer, and the Livescribe software can search it. And you can annotate the notes. Ideally.

In real life, the pen can fail at the worst moment, just like any recording device. It may not hear clearly, and record mush. The person next to you may be commenting, and the pen may record the commenter rather than the speaker. The transfer to a computer may suffer the usual glitches. You have to use special paper. And the pen costs $129.95, or more.

I’ll bet it won’t work in the rain.

Used sloppily, without good listening and good notetaking, this device will help you fail. My friend Tom Berner reminds me, “The fault lies not with the recorder, but with the person using it.” Used properly, it can improve listening, which is the key to interviewing.

[Had any experience with the Livescribe pen?]

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Published in: on September 21, 2010 at 11:11 am  Comments (5)  

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. With my luck, Don, the pen would probably disintegrate in 5 seconds…I think I’ll stick to my ballpoint. Interesting, though!

  2. Thanks, Sandra.
    I’m ambivalent about this device. I can see it helping poor notetakers, but people might depend on it too much. I think recorders sabotage writers; they let it do the work, and it fails them.
    All best, Don

  3. I just like the valuable info you supply to your articles.
    I will bookmark your blog and take a look at once more here
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  4. Thanks, Jillian. If you have topics you want addressed, send me an email. Don

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