There have recently been Problems with the ChinesePod Audio Review files. Here you can share lessons ID's for lessons with audio problems, complain, accuse, support, placate. Below is my official response, below that are various comments and complaints from users regarding this problem:
I understand your ire, however the audio review, dialogue, vocabulary, expansion audio are recorded directly into the AMS system, mixed automatically by the system, whereas the podcasts and Jenny's inserts for the audio review are done in the studio, mixed by the studio and uploaded to the system by the studio.
The normalization code is missing, the tech team ARE on it. I've been liaising with them daily with regards to this problem.
We have 1 member of the tech team dedicated to finding the Audio Mixing related lines of code in the AMS1 in order to copy them over to AMS2, unfortunately the AMS1 creator left our company years ago - so its a matter of looking for a needle in a hay stack.
We will fix this. I can't give you a definite date, but we are working as best as we can in order to fix this, it IS a priority.
All affected lessons have been recorded in a list. Once its fixed we will regenerate and republish all effected lessons on this list.
Please remain patient, thank you.
ChinesePod Product Manager
complaints & comments thus far:
3 hours ago
*ahem*, low sound levels on the audio review MP3, (except for the parts spoken by jenny)?
*cough* equally low levels on expansion, vocab, and dialogue tabs?
Any point whatsoever in mentioning this again? No of course not, I understand.
Standard CPod response will go like this:- "It's the EMS. Our new EMS means our sound studio team are incapable of using their equipment properly, and we are incapable of fixing anything that is messed up. In the meantime, go and play with the new Skritter toy and take your mind off it."
2 hours ago
WHAT I DON'T UNDERSTAND IS WHY THE SOUND IN JENNY AND JOHN'S SHOW PODCAST IS ALWAYS OK WHILE THE OTHER PODCASTS CONTINUALLY HAVE SOUND PROBLEMS.
MOST ANNOYING IS THE AUDIO REVIEW WITH PETE'S HARDLY AUDIBLE MUMBLING VOICE, THE SLIGHTLY LOUDER CHINESE READING, AND THE BOOMING INTRODUCTIONS OF JENNY'S VOICE. IT JUST BLOWS YOUR MIND UP WHEN LISTENING TO THE DISPARATE VOLUMES.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU GUYS AT CPOD?????
1 hour ago
1 hour ago
哈哈 user26513。。。很搞笑了 :)
1 hour ago
58 minutes ago
That's more than good enough for me.I've never known you guys not to respond to a problem and come up with the goods.Thanks for always listening and giving feedback on where things are at.Tech problems can be a nightmare,and I have faith that you guys are fixing as fast as possible.Good luck mate. :)
And as the month draws to a close,thanks for the best month on CPod ever.Jiayou!!
46 minutes ago
matt, these kinds of problems with the downloadable (and on-site) sound files have been going on for many weeks now.
It could be argued that these files are actually the most important part of CPod content, the primary means by which users learn from the lessons.
What kind of idiotic system is set up so that humans are not directly involved in the production of the files, and cannot get involved in fixing them (pronto!) when they are messed-up?
Personally I'm sick of hearing about AMS front-end and AMS back-end or whatever, I'd just like to see you and your 'tech team' get your frickin' finger out.
39 minutes ago
Pete does mumble, but I don't care anymore. His hushed, academic way of speaking is rather soothing to the ears. It's like a combined Chinese lesson and Zen meditation. That Mexican-American guy (forgot his name) from Qing Wen was pretty funny, but I think Jenny, Connie and Pete are taking Qing Wen to a better, more useful place.
35 minutes ago
Matt and Team
I love the Skritter and Electronic dictionary links. Great job. thanks, Young in Atlanta
30 minutes ago
I have a solution: just have Pete yell his part at the top of his lungs.
Of course, this could backfire when the time comes to record qing wen and he doesn't have his voice... :/
15 minutes ago
The AMS1 creator must be having a laugh now.
Are the raw audio files also missing? I say this because I'm wondering if ChinesPod can use Audacity to r
2 minutes ago
my guess is that the AMS just prompts each reader individually to read what their script says, and then uses DSP algorithms to normalize and vary the time in between each clip internally (i.e. the "let's try it faster" section) and spit out the final product. i wouldn't be surprised if there are no intermediate "raw audio" files. as for the final MP3, i tried normalizing it with Audacity and it didn't make much of a difference.
xiaophilAugust 27, 2009, 04:49 AM
Not that it is terribly important, but my post should read:
The AMS1 creator must be having a laugh now.
Are the raw audio files also missing? I say this because I'm wondering if ChinesPod can use Audacity to remix the files?
matt_cAugust 28, 2009, 02:33 AM
Mankini is no sock puppet of ours. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, we have no need to use sock puppets.
@Paulinurus Despite what you think, I use the title not for your benefit, but for the benefit of the newcomers who may not know me, so they know that the communication is an official message from Middle Management.
Our tech team has fixed the bugs, we are now testing. I am currently personally re-recording the English audio for 'Funny Business 4' with Connie rerecording the Chinese. We will then regenerate the audio review in the Academic Management System. If we have succeeded in solving the problem, I will republish and re-upload the lesson - then proceed to fix the other faulty audio reviews.
ChinesePod Product Manager
TalAugust 27, 2009, 07:17 AM
So in other words, if the errors had been noticed by the 'quality control' department before they were even made available for download, none of these faulty files need have appeared. Just too much work to do that you see,太麻烦了。 Ah.
pearltowerpeteAugust 27, 2009, 07:26 AM
That's actually my clear speaking voice ;-) I know that I have a tendency to run my words together (and that's before a sip of the ole firewater) but I do try to enunciate clearly for the recordings.
And when I record the vocab/sentences in the sound booth, they sound good (volume-wise) to me. Something is getting lost on the way to the customers.
We're also frustrated about the audio system. All I can say is please be patient. We will get this sorted out as soon as possible.
xiaophilAugust 27, 2009, 07:50 AM
Don't get insecure about your voice. It projects bad-ass braniac-ness.
Thanks for your explanation. I gotta admit, I don't know what it takes to make a professional sounding recording, so I'll trust you.
TalAugust 27, 2009, 07:55 AM
I have no complaints about the voices here, or the diction, (all excellent). All along I'm talking about the sound mix (lack of).
Actually pete I'll put it in writing that I love your voice, so... American. There's a whole continent in your vowels. With lakes and stuff, and Hiawatha.
And 怎么说呢？connie's is a voice to die for。
RJAugust 27, 2009, 08:57 AM
With all due respect, this is a real business now and should be run like one. Time to grow up. I know some of these things come from above you in the chain of command, but:
1. software should be thoroughly tested before roll-out.
2. All lesson files should be checked by a QC third party before release and errors should be fixed (also before release). This is not the case, otherwise the roll-overs, lists, and sound files would not be riddled with errors. (separate from this sound issue).
3. Whatever needs to be done to provide an error-free product (such as manual re-works) should be done while you are working the real problem and until the real problem is fixed, regardless of addtional cost, overtime, and additional resources required. Its your job to put out the product the customers are paying for and expect. Its not their fault, its yours.
4. Dont patronize the customers.
This, plus the awesome content that you have, would put you on a sure path to financial success. Maybe Im being too hard on you. After all this is just a website. If all you want to be is just a website, then never mind, but I kind of thought you wanted to be more. Many of your customers are working in the real business world and many of us would literally be fired for some of the things I see go on at Praxis. Forgive me if Im setting the bar too high. Its what Im paid to do, and old habits die hard. Good luck.
matt_cAugust 27, 2009, 09:46 AM
QC is done before lessons are rolled out, however this problem wasn't able to be fixed in time for publication. I'm sure you'd prefer a lesson with slightly varying volumes in the audio review than us holding the lesson back due to quality issues.
The problem, as John said, is about tweaking the sound level normalization process.
Funnily enough, the audio sounds fine on my Macbook and headphones. Perhaps I should QC each lesson on a PC as well just to make sure.
We made some progress today but I am still not satisfied that the file is up to the standards you expect.
Please bear with us on this. It WILL be fixed ASAP.
JohnAugust 27, 2009, 05:06 AM
It may be hard to believe, but the problems we've had during the switchover to AMS2 are actually quite minor compared to problems with AMS1 in the past.
All the raw files are in the system; that's not the issue.
It would be possible to manually edit the files, but it's a lot of work for just one file, when the work really needs to go into the normalization/file generation process. Once that's done, regenerating and re-uploading the offending audio review files is trivial.
paulinurusAugust 27, 2009, 11:13 AM
Yes, I had my hat on as an irated customer and shouted with the CAPS ON after receiving yet another horrible sound quality lesson. Business is all about roles and responsibilities toward customer service..... didn't they teach you this in management training courses?
@Matt, after all the weeks of flap about the sound quality, it didn't occur to you that before releasing the Lao Wang lesson that you should have first put out a notice saying that the sound situation has not been resolved and that you're still releasing the lesson because "I'm sure you'd prefer a lesson with slightly varying volumes in the audio review than us holding the lesson back due to quality issues."?
@Pete, I do sympathize with your loss of the poems program but it seems to me you should really take this issue up with your boss rather than inject poetic twists in your other responsibilities at Cpod. When I am listening to the review lesson, I'm trying to learn Chinese and it'll be a real help if you don't mumble and slur words out as if you're a personaliity acting in a play.
@John, as RJ indicated there are some poddies here with years of successful corporate business and management experience. I am just a customer and it is not my role to tell you how to manage Cpod, but I will say this as a comment from a poddie: if Cpod aspires as a company objective to attract corporations as customers, you need to put more money in the budget for management training and customer service skills of staff. A comment such as "It may be hard to believe, but the problems we've had during the switchover to AMS2 are actually quite minor compared to problems with AMS1 in the past" just won't fly well with the real money corporate clients. Just like RJ said, in the real world heads would have been chopped for releasing the AMS program without first conducting and testing for bugs. It is just unbelievable that basic functions such as correcting a file had not been tested and for Matt to say "I put in the corrected HTML document for the Funny Business II lesson but the AMS system continued to produce the erroneous pdf file."
p.s. and Matt, don't you know that frequently displaying your title as a Cpod Product Manager just don't fly well with people here in the West. Unlike China, we here don't care about job titles even if you're a CEO of a company. In fact, it is a mockery on yourself displaying your job title when the operations are not well managed for superb customer service.
silvia_tirtawidjajaAugust 27, 2009, 12:56 PM
My god, so many angry people. Some people need to learn to chill. $400 for 2 years of premium membership, giving you access to about 300 hours of podcasts, and now Skritter, and personalised answers to your questions on the discussion boards. My mandarin course costs $330 for 25 hours, and I believe that is relatively cheap. You guys are acting as though you think you are paying top dollar. They say you get what you pay for, and I think you are getting MUCH more than you are paying for. Its one thing to ASK for an improvement, its another thing to act like spoilt brats.
RJAugust 27, 2009, 11:45 PM
I can not speak for everyone but I for one am not angry, just a little disappointed at times and yes I agree with you, cpod is a great deal, and I like it very much. The minor glitches are not as bad as how they are handled. I could live with all of them. Its because we love Cpod that we strive to make it better and sometimes things that are not easy to say, need to be said. Once.
All I ask is that cpod say what they mean and do what they say. And I dont think its too much to ask if we expect them to function using globally accepted practices based on common sense and good business strategies that offer some consistency. This is indeed a great product, and for that reason, some of us strive to make it better. It was never my intent to hurt anybody's feelings but rather to say something that needed to be said.
The question I have for you is who would have to create a new identity just to express their opinion here? Obviously you know the history and you have strong feelings that you wanted to voice here but felt you could not do it as you, but instead needed to create a trial period "sock puppet" to hide behind. Who needs to do this and why?
matthiaskAugust 28, 2009, 12:03 AM
RJ, your words were really on the harsh side and it's good to see you putting them back in relation now.
Seems, that sockpuppet mankini says some right words here, whoever (s)he is.
I mean, I'm missing the pinyin in the iPod lyrics as well, but I informed the staff and am sure that it will be resolved.
You all are right, that cpod could sometimes stick to an established channel rather than running around, jumping onto every virtual train they can catch (twitter, google talk, uservoice, blog, forum, conversation policies, ...), just to realize that the ressources are not there to keep them all up and running, but isn't exactly this also one of the features we love so much: Trying new stuff, playing around just to staying fresh ?!
Look what we gained within a few weeks - new exercises, qing wen pdfs, skritter support - for a few minor glitches.
I remember one of my remarks on uservoice. "Don't tell us that you are awesome. You are, and finds out why himself." Didn't get too many vote back than, but I clearly felt that the self-advertisement was seriously reduced later on.
We got here an honest excuse from Matt - something quite difficult to get in some cultures (enterprise or country). Let's appreciate it.
xiaophilAugust 28, 2009, 12:07 AM
I would like to echo some comments here and say that that ChinesePod should give more concrete time frames for solving problems and adding new features. After all, as some have expressed, one man's ASAP is one hour; another man's is ten days. In my mind it is perfectly acceptable to create a tentative time frame to deliver results. If you can't make the deadline, then update us. Yes, that does create some more pressure because you can't always fail to reach your target, but it would be better than getting a collective gripe session thrust onto the staff.
I think that it is time for a ChinesePod staff run group that is dedicated to updating this kind of stuff. It seems ChinesePod only places notices up when there is a fire to put out or there is some sort of big release.
And if I haven't mentioned it enough, I too love ChinesePod.
PS: I know many people like the new gadgets and toys around here. I'm not against them by any means. But to be honest, I have my system. I just want my pdfs, mp3s and message board access. I say that only to point out that some of us do exist and are frustrated (although try to be understanding) of the core services getting less attention because of the new bells and whistles.
RJAugust 27, 2009, 10:42 AM
I have said my piece. Its up to you now. I noticed that you hedged your bets with the well known double acronym, "ASAP," which can be used as:
"Always Stop and Pray"
or, the in a pinch back-up:
"After September, April Possibly." ;-)
Im sure all will be well. (AWBW).