Tag Archives: ireland

Mike O’Laughlin of the Irish Roots Cafe talks about discovering shared family history through new media

“Who are you?” A simple question, but one that could take someone on the adventure of a lifetime. For Mike O’Laughlin of Irish Roots Cafe, it took him on a trip to discover his Irish roots and began his journey to help others find theirs using his books, blog, podcast and personal tours of Ireland. Today we join Bethany Frank as she talks with Mike O’Laughlin. Mike is going to explore the ease of podcasting and how he uses it to share connect folks around Irish heritage worldwide.

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Frank: Well Mike, thank you so much for joining us today at Voices of the Past. Tell us about yourself.

O’Laughlin: Well I guess we are talking about how I got into the website and the Irish heritage or the Irish American heritage, and actually now it is the Irish heritage all over the world — Canada and Australia and England and Ireland and the U.S. It’s amazing. And it really started when I was a young boy when I go to the grandparents’ house with the parents on Sunday. And the old folks would always talk about the old days and sometimes they would hold it over you about how they knew everything and you didn’t even know who these people were. So at one point I came and found a travel brochure to Ireland, and it said, “O’Laughlin’s Castles.” And it said, “Here’s an O’Laughlin’s Castle in County Clare.” And my O’Laughlin family knew we were Irish, they didn’t know why, they just knew it. And maybe it was the “O” in front of the name, but I thought, “you know what. If I could go over there and see that castle and claim it as ours, then I would have something on them and I could drop by on a Sunday now that I am a little older and tell them some things that they might not know.” That’s really what started the whole thing. I made a reservation with an B&B whose owner was the same name as mine. From there I came out with a book and it just kept going and I just kept writing, and now I am the most published author in the world in my field of study in the world. But you notice, I didn’t say the best. In the world–there’s a difference.

Frank: There’s a difference. Well, why did you go about starting your blog?

O’Laughlin: Really I was on the web for several years before I even started the blog. I didn’t really understand exactly…I know it is whatever you want it to be when you get right down to it, but I didn’t quite understand exactly what people were doing and I wasn’t real comfortable with it. And I go, well, I’d have to take a lot of time if I wrote a syndicated column or something along those lines. So I waited and finally, I got the podcast going. The podcast actually came first. I thought, “Well, this is a perfect way to get into it. I’ll put the shownotes from each podcast onto the blog and maybe add some things now and then. So that got me into blogging very comfortably since I had several podcasts going. Actually, we’ve got seven different podcast series going now. All the way from genealogy to song and recitation, and local history and history in Ireland. And it’s really blossomed.

Frank: You said before you’re very well published and can see all of the stuff that you’ve published on your site. How did you make that transition from publishing books to publishing podcasts?

O’Laughlin: Basically it was born out of fun. I had no idea how easy it was to get started. Now, it takes a while, maybe 50 shows or so before you start to understand what sound is and how to adjust it and the different kinds of microphones. But in the beginning I got this new Mac computer, which is an upgrade, and my IT guy that came in and was helping me with it said, “Oh, you’ve got to check out GarageBand.” And I thought, “yeah, yeah, I’ve got so much to worry about.” And thought it was just maybe if I was a kid and I wanted to practice the guitar, that’d be the place the go. I didn’t know that you could do a podcast in five minutes. And I just went right to GarageBand, pressed the button to record, and there my voice was recording. So, it was so easy to start that it got me hooked. And plus it was fun, and who wouldn’t want their own radio show?

Frank: Have you ever done radio shows or anything like that before?

O’Laughlin: No. I had been interviewed a few times and I was active in cultural things on the Irish side. So, I started up a group and the local radio station interviewed me a couple of times, and I think I was on television once. But very small little parts, but I always thought it was great fun.

Frank: After you started, you hit start on GarageBand for the first time, how did you get it to evolve?

O’Laughlin: I will tell you, it still takes me a while to jump into things. But I had recorded in my living room several shows, and it’s not really shows. It was interviews with seven of my friends in a roundtable discussion on genealogy. This is back in 1984, and I had saved those recordings. And I thought, “Hey, I will just take each of those, break them up into seven segments and make those my first seven podcasts.” So really I got over the nervousness of it by the first seven podcasts were really rebroadcasts from 1984 that I had been done at home. So I sort of cut my teeth on that and got familiar with it and then started to try to refine things.

Frank: How’d you go about refining them?

O’Laughlin: Well, first of all, better microphones. And then the little setting on the machine. I didn’t know what those were at first, like the echo and the reverb and the different voices. I hadn’t really experimented with them. And how you keep the sound even and something like compression, which makes sounds that are a little too small come up to a level you can hear them and the ones that are a little loud come down to where you can hear them a little better. So little things like compression settings and the difference between the different kinds of microphones. And some are too sensitive and pick up every noise in the house when I’m recording or in the Cafe here when I’m recording, especially if it is a busy night.

Frank: You mentioned recording in the Cafe.

O’Laughlin: Yes.

Frank: So, it’s a real Cafe? Not a virtual one?

O’Laughlin: It’s a Cafe. Is there a difference? I’d say, at times it is just my place. And then at special times of the year, we open it up and it’s a cafe. And we do serve the food and we do have the performances. And we do record the Irish Song and Recitation Festival, and we are getting ready to have the seventh one of them, and I have been practicing old style Irish song, which I find very few people know about so I feel safe with that.

Frank: What exactly is old style Irish song?

O’Laughlin: Well they call it the sean nós. And it was usually solo and in the Irish language, although it’s loosened up in its interpretation now. And it usually told a story, and shoot, the old fellows might come in from the sea and be singing a song, and that was it. It’s really natural singing, I think, without so much concern for particular notes or phrasing. And each time it’s not the same. And I thought, boy, that sounds like the way I sing anyway. You miss a few notes and it’s not always on the same track. So I thought I’d give it a try. And we started up a little group here in town for sean nós, and we are just having fun with it.

Frank: So, back to Irish Roots Cafe, how did that get started and what all is it?

O’Laughlin: It’s really, that’s a very good question, It’s really presence of everything I’ve ever done on the Internet. And it is just a combination of everything because I’m spread out so far and I am just one person. I have no help other than volunteers that come in and help with the podcast or I interviewed, that type of thing. So it is a way to tie it all together, and it’s a way to put all 60 of the books I’ve written or published up online. And it was also a way to get all seven podcast series going and feeding into each other. So, it really started to tie everything in together. Plus I could have some fun, and I could talk about the things I like, like rare old books. And some little history tidbits now and then, and I’m still…I have a side site, that if you go to my site and you click on “Quick and Easy,” that’s the pages where I can play with myself. I don’t have to give them to a webmaster. And so I do a lot of little strange things there. And then give them to my webmaster and then he puts them on the formal pages.

Frank: And so you have an annual festival with Irish Roots, correct?

O’Laughlin: Yes. And that is basically the Irish Song and Recitation Festival. And we will get folks together and we will sing songs and then we will vote on who wins, and it can be anything at all. You never know what’s going to be walking through the door next.

Frank: On your site, you have your Irish Hedge School, and you talk about carrying the sod.

O’Laughlin: Yes. Well I will tell you. If you go back and read Irish history particularly in the 17th Century, that’s when the Irish culture, the existing culture, was plundered. There was nothing left and even the old Bardic traditions started to disappear. And everything was, you might say, government schools. And the new people that were coming in and taking over Ireland were maybe ruling it in a different way, and they said, “No, no Irishman can actually be a teacher. No Irishman could actually teach Irish.” That type of thing, and you cannot have your own school. And if you have a school house, you will be fined. And so, or maybe they will ship you to the Barbados. You never know what’s going to happen. And so, it was pretty rough times.

So in rebellion, the Irish said, “We’re going to keep our ways and our education, and we’re going to find old cow sheds or we might go and teach out on the side of the lawn on a sunny day next to a hedge row where nobody can see us.” And so the name “hedgerow” came about because of that. And so it became “hedge schools” with “hedge teachers,” and the hedge teachers would travel the country all on their own. They were sort of like migrant teachers, and they would be on the run sometimes. And they would hide, and they would meet with the local people and the local people would have to like them and send their kids to school. They might pay them with butter. Might pay them, if they were real lucky, they might get part of Patty’s pig. But it was a pretty rough way to go really. And you could imagine the conditions, but they actually taught Greek and Latin, things like that in these schools. And some of the folks of the upper classes were amazed at how these peasants that were holding their horses when they went into town could speak Latin and Greek.

Frank: So then how do you incorporate that with your site?

O’Laughlin: Well what we are doing is also teaching and trying to bring up and save the Irish culture and heritage in what little way we can by reviving the old ways, the old songs, the old history. The history podcast brings back the history of Ireland. We have the Irish in America, which does the local history in America and reminds people what role the Irish played in America, what role their ancestors played in America and in settling the country. And there’s things we’ve forgotten. So each one of these podcasts really brings back part of that history and brings it alive just like they did in the old days with the hedge schools, except I think, we have a lot more entertaining time doing it.

Frank: On your site you mention an Irish DNA project.

O’Laughlin: Yeah, that’s really my current issue. That’s were I am focusing right now. I am working on a book on Irish DNA, and I have been interviewing some folks that do Irish DNA for a living, and They’ve done movies on it. It is really fascinating what that’s going to do with what the whole genetics thing (15:28) means to people.

Frank: Can you tell me about it and what all is happening with it?

O’Laughlin: I think we are linked up with Family Tree DNA, and we interview them everyone once in a while with the podcast to tell us about R1B, which is a distinctive Irish marker, or moving up to M222, which is another marker. And so, they tell us what to look for and what has been traced back and examples of let’s say this fellow, the minute he took his DNA, he knew he came from this village in County Clare because that is where this DNA marker first started. So we are having some remarkable success stories with people who cannot find their family heritage, their location in Ireland or really in Europe or anywhere in the world. And that’s really what got us started and it takes the place of…well, if you have reached a dead end in genealogy research, it’s really the only way to go. And let’s say you were adopted and they couldn’t get any records, well they could take your DNA, and you might be able to find out what county or town or area that you came from. And it’s just another part of genealogy resources.

Frank: Did you go through all of this stuff and track your own heritage?

O’Laughlin: Yes. That’s way back to that first story when I talked about O’Laughlin’s castle. I was actually real lucky on my way over. I actually found the O’Laughlin ancestor and the Donoghue ancestor, which was my mother’s side. And that’s a story in itself. But I got very very lucky, and very few people can get that lucky. I actually had a flat tire in kilkan nora (17:06) County Clare, which is the town that eventually I found my ancestors in. I went up and talked with Father Van (17:14), who is the priest there, while my tire was being changed. I’d gone to about 10 parishes before then, and he took me down to the church, opened a safe and handed me the birth register they had kept, and I guess they had sent a copy in to the government when they had collected them. But he says, “Here. Look at it and lock up when you’re done.” Well, I was shocked at that too, but I said OK. It was a bit chilly, but I didn’t care. I kept going through this register page by page until I found it. The exact date that say Peter O’Laughlin had gotten married, and there was the marriage on that date in that parish. And so I nailed it in that case, and it was amazing. The feeling was just incredible. The whole search, to say that I’ve done this. And it was almost just as amazing in County Clare with my mother’s folks. I had to take time. You know you can’t be too pushy when you’re asking people for help. And I found that if you were patient and you went back maybe a second time or a third time, and just casually mention that you were looking for family roots in a certain area or a certain name, you might actually get some pretty intelligent answers, whereas in the beginning they might just think, “Oh, this guy, they don’t know what he is doing. He’s just going to fly by in a car and be gone tomorrow. He has no idea what he’s talking about.” But I have found out that if you ask more than one time, even to the same folks and you’re patient, you’d be surprised. You could have some pretty good luck.

Frank: So, you’ve done your journey for genealogy, and you have all these resources for other folks to work on their journey. Why is having it all available through the web and through the Internet important?

O’Laughlin: Well, I reach the whole world. Or the information reaches the whole world. And I get feedback, and I get corrected if I’m wrong. Somebody says, “No wait, here’s the family history. That’s a little bit off what you’ve got there.” And never in the history of the world could somebody like me be in their house, reach out and get 5 million hits a year from people all over the world–Australia, like I said before, Canada, England, Ireland–regular conversations and regular input. And it’s not a one-way thing. You are sharing back and forth both ways. It could have never have happened. And it is really a way to share knowledge, and it is almost like a quickening. The world is so much smaller now. And here is one of the good things that the smallness of the world has brought about. You can share things and understand things, whereas before you’d never have a chance. I don’t know that I ever would have talked to someone from Australia about Irish roots–or maybe about anything unless I bumped into them on the street.

Frank: Are you anywhere else online other than just on your website?

O’Laughlin: Well my blog propagates pretty well since I am an author on Amazon. I’ve got a, with each of my books, I’ve got a blog. So I have several blogs on Amazon.com. And then I have a separate blog on IrishCentral.com, which is like a gigantic site for all things Irish–Irish news and all things great and small in every subject what so ever. So, that helps reach out to a whole new group of people that I might not be able to contact. Those blogs are great, but still, my best pull is the podcast.

Frank: Where can folks find that?

O’Laughlin: The podcast is at IrishRoots.com. And I’ve got all seven of them there. And we’ve got three different kinds: regular audio, video podcast and then the enhanced podcast, which is a podcast that is audio, but you can put pictures up on the screen and embed links in it. So if I am talking about the McCleary family on the screen, you can have a little link and it will say, “Go here to see the McCleary family.” And you click it and you go while you are listening to the podcast. So that is sort of fun. And I think you have got to have QuickTime or you have got to have iTunes for that to work, but it is just another form of podcasting that is nice to play with.

Frank: And then with your website and with everything else, what is your ultimate goal?

O’Laughlin: Ultimate goal. Well, since we’ve been doing it for forever, I would say it is just to spread the word, to enjoy the Irish culture and heritage, and particularly enjoy the Irish-American heritage on my part. And the Irish-Canadian or the Irish-or whatever country you come from. But to enjoy the good parts of it, and to realize what are some of the good things that bind us all together and that we’ve all experienced in the past that can help us in the future. And it is also always fun to compare one culture to another, and to understand them and the things you have in common and the things that they have differently. And really you get into being an historian after a while because there is no way to avoid it.

Frank: Is there anything else that we can expect in the future from Irish Roots?

O’Laughlin: Oh my gosh. Well we are going to keep up the podcast, and I am going to try to add some links pages. I haven’t had time to do much with links, they change so quickly. And they take up so much time. I prefer to just go with data and things that help directly with research. But we are going to add some links and some more on the Song and Recitation. I’m going to do some more on that. And definitely we are going to have, I am going to do a book on Irish DNA and expand the page to explain more on our site to increase our links on the DNA links. That’s sort of the future of so much of what we’re doing.

Frank: What is your advice to anyone wanting to go seek their ancestors and find out about their genealogy?

O’Laughlin: Well the first thing you have to remember is to start researching at home. If you don’t live in Ireland, you don’t want to start researching in Ireland unless you have some kind of clue. What you want to do is find the place in Ireland that you came from on a piece of paper in the country that you’re living in. So you’ll want to find, Ireland is organized by counties, so you will want to find your county first of all, and then go in for the records. And if you are in America and you want a birth certificate or a marriage certificate or an obituary in a newspaper, you want that to say, “Came from County Clary (23:49) Ireland in 1850 with two sons and his wife.” And there you have your connection and then you can make the jump and look for the folks with the same surname and first names in Irish records. The top thing to remember: start in your country and start with every piece of paper they might have signed and with the computers today and all the massive databases, you can find out fast. You will find out with more information than you want to sort through as apposed to back in the 1980s, sometimes you couldn’t find enough to look at. Now, there’s plenty.

Frank: What’s your advice for folks their own blog or website and want to get interested in podcasting and stuff like that?

O’Laughlin: Well, if you want to get into it, first of all, follow your instincts. Follow what you think is fun, and then develop that into what you want to do in a more real sense. And then that way, it will carry you through. Because there are time when you are going to say, “Well I don’t know anything about microphones and what I want to do is get the word out to people on this or that.” Well you learn a microphone. It might take a while, but you will be much smarter at the end of it and everything you’ve done. You just start one piece at a time, and a blog is real easy to do. It doesn’t cost anything really. There’s sites that you go up for almost nothing, and so expense is no excuse. It just might take a little bit of time to understand it. And podcasts, I’m telling you, you can have a podcast going in five minutes and another five by just pressing a button and sending it off to iTunes, if you are using them. And then it is going to take you some time. It might take you 50 shows before you get a pattern down or you get the sound down, or you start understanding about echoes or microphone sensitivity. But that’s OK. You just go and you have fun and you will grow into what it is you want to be.

Frank: As far as social media is concerned and genealogy, what do you think is the future of genealogy with the impact of social media?

O’Laughlin: Well of course it’s changed things greatly. There’s going to be some megasight, it’s already happening. And I saw this 10 years ago, but as everybody gobbles everybody up with huge databases, there is going to be a few places who have most all of the data, and then the important thing is going to be making that data understandable and accessible. And of course, supplying new input to people. Now, you can always do that with a podcast because it’s current. It’s like a news show. And that will always be valuable to people no matter what and the same thing with the blog. And so, it’s really not a lot of work to do. It is a little more work to do the podcast than the blog because you have to learn about audio, but once you do it, it’s rewarding. Well with my podcasts, my genealogy podcast is first with the number of audience and then my blog is second and then my other podcasts fall in behind that. So it gives you an idea, you can reach a lot of people, and some people will not read and some people will not listen. So if you go both ways, you are hitting both people.

Frank: You’ve helped all these folks find their heritage, do you have a story that you can share with us with one of those journeys with one of those families?

O’Laughlin: Oh I tell you. One of my early trips to Ireland–I regularly took people over to Ireland that were members and helped them have a good time and also help them search their ancestors if they still wanted to do that when they got there. Most people want to just enjoy themselves when they get to Ireland, I’ve found, but a few people are looking seriously. And I tell you, our bus driver that drove us around at, at the end of the first tour he said, “You know what. I didn’t understand you guys. Coming over here, searching through graveyards that nobody cares about and they are just sort of a fixture in the community, it’s just overgrown with weeds and no one cares.” He said, “I couldn’t imagine why anyone would fly across the ocean and come over here, but once I saw the look in Ms. So-and-so’s eyes when they found the name on that gravestone”–you know when the tears come into your eyes. He said, “I understood.” He said, “We don’t know what we’ve got here in Ireland. We’ve been here forever so we don’t have to go hunting. And you do.” So that was a real neat comparison. Of course they don’t have to go looking. They know. That’s where they’re from. And that was in a, I think, Quaker graveyard. It was through this little town and we found an old graveyard, and one of the people had found the name there and that happens all the time with research.

Frank: Thank you so much for chatting with me.

O’Laughlin: And thank you.

Podcast: Michael Phillips on creating Sense of Place with video “iGuidez”

For three years now, Michael Phillips has had a dream that he hopes will someday spread to the rest of the world: to create “sense of place” with video. It seems the tech world has helped set the stage for that dream, incorporating video functionality into everything from mobile phones and music players. With his website and blog, iGuidez, Phillips provides a template for capturing and sharing special sites for netizens everywhere to enjoy. In this interview, Michael Phillips talks about how he developed iGuidez, and the challenges of running a heritage website.


Welcome to the Voices of the Past podcast. I’m Jeff Guin, and today I’m talking to Michael Phillips of the heritage travel site, iGuidez.

Guin: Michael, welcome to the podcast. I was wondering if you would just start by telling us what iGuidez was designed to do.

Phillips: My experience as a traveler has been that guide books only ever give you a paragraph or two or sometimes even a few sentences about a famous sculpture or a church or anything like that on a local level. And therefore, I was always one that I wanted more information, I wanted to know more about what I could go to see rather than think, “Oh, this is really those three stars or four stars, so I have got to go see it,” whereas maybe it’s not in your taste at all. So I’ve been trying to get more concentrated information out about single items that you can go and see on a local level.

iGuidez is all about local information. I am trying to explain things better with video and photos and written text all in the one page as you see on my website.

Guin: Alright, well, how did you come up with the name for your site?

Phillips: Ah, that was easy. It was a fluke. I mean, as you might appreciate yourself, trying to get a name for anything on the Internet these days is virtually impossible. So it took me a long time at the previous name I had was JungleJam.tv, basically because I couldn’t find another name. And then one day, I just had upon iGuidez with a zed, you know so, it just came. It just happened like that.

Guin: Obviously this is a mission for you. You’re kind of looking at this as your calling. What experiences in your past led you to create the site, just the concept for iGuidez?


Phillips: Well, as I have said, I have traveled a lot. I am interested in the history, but not interested in history for history’s sake. And I am more of a–I suppose you could say–history in a social context, and that when I go around to see things, I want to know what was the artist thinking when they created something, or what was the designer or architect thinking when they designed a building or such. So it kind of evolved initially from a point of view of traveling somewhere and letting other people know what’s there. The most difficult thing about iGuidez that it took me a couple of years to create is how do you put so much information about one thing on a website, on a web page. So, it’s taken a year, two years to develop that method. And as I said, it all comes from traveling.

Guin: Well, were you a web designer in a previous life? Is that what you do professionally? Are you a tech person?

Phillips: I am actually an aircraft engineer, but that had nothing to do with the website itself. No, I just picked up basic HTML code as I began three, four years ago and various different websites. But then as it got more complicated and because it was video, I then had to employ certain people along the way. So the website now, I pay somebody to develop it to my ideas and designs. It’s a very expensive option. I mean, I wish I could do it myself because I would save a lot of money. I am only doing it because I can’t sit down and learn the website coding and also be out and making videos because it just doesn’t go. A lot of people have always said to me, “Why don’t you learn the coding then?” But then of course, who would be making the videos?

Guin: Exactly. And we know that the web is about the content, it’s not so much the look of the site, although good design is important, but there are some just very basic blogs that are very, very popular using the standard default WordPress template. It is about the content. What’s your experience with videography? Is it something you have done professionally in the past or is it something you have taken up as a professional hobby?

Phillips: Actually no. I have had no experience whatsoever in videography or photography or any of that at all … Having lived in Italy for four and a half years, in the world’s center of art, it’s hard to describe. You can’t write about art. You just can’t. It doesn’t translate as well, no matter how good a writer you are. So you have to show photographs; you have to show images, you know? So again, it was just playing around with video and thinking. Video is also much quicker. You put one photograph up of a piece of art and that’s it. Now you have to say something; write something about it. Whereas if you use a video, you can take much more art in and you can talk about it at the same time. So you are letting the images speak for themselves. So it was really just trial and error.

Guin: OK, well, you’ve got your blog established and your website, and they look great and they are very informative. But have you branched out to other forms of social media and using the web tools to communicate with your audience as well?

Phillips: Yes, I use Twitter as much as I can. I did have Facebook account a while ago, but I gave it up because you have your normal email and then you have the social media and then you have say the blog and the website, and it just gets so complicated and then you lose track of everything. I had to streamline everything. So I just use my blog on the website and Twitter as I can.

Guin: OK. Well, what does Twitter do for you as far as being able to promote your site and communicate with people that are interested in your blog?

Phillips: Well actually, that is a very good question. I asked myself that question when Twitter was all the go many months ago. I looked at it several times and I couldn’t think how am I going to use it because I’m not one of these people that I want to blog about me or my experiences. I wanted to use it for my website and I couldn’t figure out how. And then it just occurred to me one day: “I know what I’ll do, every time that I see something interesting or I make an interesting video or I add something to my blog, I can then update it on Twitter.” I do and sometimes it catches on. Sometimes it can be very useful, not always of course. And plus, the benefit of Twitter, as you have realized yourself, it is very quick. You just say what you have to say and press return and it goes out to everybody and that’s it. You don’t have to think about it, you don’t have to, like a blog, you don’t have to sit down and concentrate what you’re going to write or what you’re going to do. You just get on with it, and that’s again the advantage of it.

Guin: I am sure you spend some time on the Internet using resources on the web other than just your site or something directly related to it. What sites do you most enjoy?

Phillips: Well, I really enjoy TechCrunch. And I use a few similar sites. One called NI Tech Blog, which is a local one in Belfast. What I use them for is just to keep abreast of any announcements or anything that comes up similar to my website … just to know what technology comes online, or who’s moving or who’s doing what on the travel industry. And sometimes I do contact people through those websites to ask for collaboration and things like that.

At the beginning when I started of a couple years ago when I was getting more into the research and the information, I used to use Wikipedia a lot, but then I suddenly realized it has a very very short life span because there’s not a lot on Wikipedia with regards to specific information on local things. Now if you are talking about famous landmarks or points of interest, there is plenty. But not on local things. … There is one local website at home, the historian website that occasionally I use if I am back home and I am researching information.

Guin: As you demonstrate, there are different types of heritage sites and heritage blogs, and there can be photo blogs and there can be video blogs as well, and I’m amazed at all the content that you’ve got on your site. How long has it been in existence?

Phillips: Just over three years. I kind of kicked in again about travel. It was travel-oriented. And then in the last year, year and a half, it got really concentrated with information in that I want to show the information that I’ve researched about the particular subject that I happen to be videoing. That’s where I’m at today.

Guin: OK, well, explain how the site works. Is there anyway that people who enjoy your site and kind of connect to your mission can help you create more content for the site?

Phillips: Oh yes, definitely … One of the points of this website is to create a model. Again, if I hark back to that model of Wikipedia, I want to try to create some way so that I have the model to show other people how to do this, and of course, yes, I’d love people to copy what I’m doing. Again, just as in Wikipedia, there are rules and regulations. There is no point in just going around and videoing something and then talking about it, because that may not make a lot of sense. So I am looking to collaborate with people, and I am contacting travel organizations and travel websites and various technology companies even to explore ways how to develop this further. Not just from my point of view, but also in trying to get other people involved. So certainly, I mean, that’s an open question. Yes, I would love help because as much as I’d love to do everything myself, I can’t.

Guin: I understand completely. OK, then let’s use for example, let’s say there is a small Main Street organization here in the US, and they want to do some video or landmark documentaries on their particular town. Do you have any pointers for actually undertaking a project like that?

Phillips: Yes I do. In fact I occasionally have a blueprint of instructions for how to do it. For example, the videoing is not a difficult thing to learn how to do. And what I mean by that is, where do you start when you go into a room to video? Now I can explain that very easily. You just say: start at the entrance and you walk around in a clockwise direction or a counterclockwise, it doesn’t matter, and video as much as you can. So there are basic things like that you can explain with video. The much more difficult thing to explain is how do you get the information? Where do you get the information? Because if it is quite a popular thing or a famous landmark then it is not a problem. There is plenty of information out there, and even, for example, guide books, local guidebooks can even tell you as much as you need to know. But it’s things that aren’t well known that are probably even more historic; that have more value in a historic sense, and it’s trying to integrate that information onto the video in a way that makes sense.

Guin: Alright, well, if someone is interested in doing this, is there a place on your website they can go for more information or can they contact you?

Phillips: They certainly can. If they contact me, I’ll be happy to collaborate with anybody on this theme. I will certainly help anybody as much as I can because it’s in everybody’s interest to develop this, not just mine of course.

Guin: Tell us what your grand vision is for the future of this site, either in the next year or going into the long term. What do you hope for?

Phillips: Well … this is my calling, I think. It certainly feels like it. Although, with most personal missions, they never pay. So, I need something for that to change because it has taken everything off me. So I need some sort of commercial backing to help me along. I am trying to work with certain city councils in Belfast and also in Bologna because I have those two cities are very well covered. One other ambitious task at the moment is that I have made contact with the tourist board in Rome quite a few months ago, and they were very enthusiastic about my project because, I have covered Bologna (15:53) so much now and I have so much content on Bologna that I can’t really do much more. So I want to expand to the likes of Rome where I can actually meet more tourists myself when I’m on the street and they have taken us on board and have now passed it on to one of the government ministers.

Guin: Where are you from? I’m not recognizing an Italian accent there.

Phillips: Oh no, definitely, Belfast.

Guin: Do you consider Bologna your home base?

Phillips: I use Bologna as a model to create my video guides, and then of course I copied that over to Belfast every time I went home. So now that I have completed my mission there in Bologna, I need to move somewhere where it will have a greater significance and that will be the likes of Rome or in fact, it could be any big, any major city, but I know the Italian way now. I like the culture there obviously, and the standard of life, so I am happy to just to move to another city.

Guin: Well, is there anything else that you need to say about iGuidez or do you have any other web endeavors that you’re pursuing?

Phillips: God, you know, this is enough at the moment. Let me move forward with this before I go on to another one.

Guin: Alright, you kind of actually, if you have been doing it three years, you kind of got in it about the time that social media was just hitting. It is kind of the dawn of the revolution so to speak. So a lot of these social media tools weren’t even in existence then.

Phillips: Exactly. In fact, I was one, if not the first, to start making video guides. I draw a lot of inspiration from Wikipedia; drew a lot of inspiration from that then and thinking, there’s a lot of people collaborating together on knowledge. And I thought, it took me a while to think, well how could I create something that could be also equally valuable to somebody, you know? So again, that is what I want to do as well to draw upon other people’s experience and knowledge and try to put them all onto one database, so that other people can actually learn from it and actually see and experience it more. Whereas Wikipedia is text-based, not to devalue it in any sense or criticize it, it is just text. And how do you move that on to the 21st century? And that is what I think video is all about.

Guin: Well most people are visual. There have been a lot of studies about that and especially in today’s world with all of the digital distractions, that’s the only way to really capture the imaginations of anyone, but especially the younger folks. And those are the ones that we need to instill the heritage values into.

Phillips: That’s right. And there was even just a last point: there was an article written by the Times, the Sunday Times here in London about six months ago. In fact, I even have it quoted it on my website in the about page, and it says that the journalists find that everyone appreciates that Google is the number one search engine, but what few people expected was that YouTube became the second biggest search engine. And what that translates as that people are looking for videos for information now. They are looking into video websites for actual information, and that’s an extremely powerful thing if you think about it. Which means that anybody who actually has relevant information in a video, that someday is going to be worth a lot.

Guin: Alright, well, I think I am going to go ahead and wrap it up. It was a pleasure to talk to you.

Phillips: And to you as well.

Guin: And that was Michael Phillips of the heritage travel site, iGuidez. Now if you would like to learn more about Michael and iGuidez, you can check out our shownotes site. That’s Voicesofthepast.org. You can find a transcript of this interview. While you are there, check out our 2.0 tips for how to use social media to advance heritage in your part of the world. Until next time, this is Jeff Guin for Voices of the Past, and we’ll see you online.