About

Ian Ozsvald picture

This is Ian Ozsvald's blog, I'm an entrepreneurial geek, a Data Science/ML/NLP/AI consultant, founder of the Annotate.io social media mining API, author of O'Reilly's High Performance Python book, co-organiser of PyDataLondon, co-founder of the SocialTies App, author of the A.I.Cookbook, author of The Screencasting Handbook, a Pythonista, co-founder of ShowMeDo and FivePoundApps and also a Londoner. Here's a little more about me.

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7 September 2010 - 22:11Selling ProCasts through Flippa.com

A couple of weeks ago I sold ProCasts.co.uk, the screencasting business I built over the last two years. Some of you know that I moved away from the business back at Christmas and left it idle (a rather silly thing to do), here are some notes on how I sold it and how you could sell your business. This is my first business sale, some valuable lessons were learned.

I listed the business on flippa.com a month back, flippa specialises in matching buyers and sellers of domain names and small businesses. Since ProCasts was, after 8 months of inactivity, essentially a website that generated leads with a client list – I figured a listing on flippa would find some interested parties. I didn’t sell The Screencasting Handbook, I’m still happily developing the Handbook’s sales.

The new owners are Tintisha Technologies, a Leicester based video production company who wanted to expand their screencasting brand. Rich of Tintisha discovered the ProCasts sale through flippa by (happy!) accident, made a couple of bids at the end of the auction and came out on top. We completed the handover last week.

The reason for selling ProCasts was simple – I’d moved away from screencasting back at Christmas as I’d decided to return to my historic trade of artificial intelligence research and data science. I knew that a few of ProCasts’ competitors might be interested in the site and that a listing on flippa with money sent through escrow.com would make for a clean, safe sale.

I listed the site as an “Established lead generating screencasting site” with a two week auction. Flippa works differently to eBay – it uses an open auction (though private sales are possible) with a rolling end-time (if a bid is placed within 4 hours of the end of the auction the end time is advanced by another 4 hours).

Take a look at the listing to see the details that I included, I added:

  • Full business and site description
  • Details of past clients and warm leads
  • Bank statements to prove income
  • Verified Google Analytics traffic data
  • A Transfer Agreement listing all assets/processes for the sale

I made a point of responding to all questions (lots came via the private email channel) and updating the listing with new information. Fortuitously a couple of older leads came back with requests for work during the auction so these ‘very warm leads’ got a mention in the comments too.

At the end of the day the site sold for $4,002 (£2,500), minus the sale fee (£100) and escrow.com’s fees I took away £2,400. Not bad for a site that was otherwise of no value to me but obviously not an ‘interesting exit’.

Here are some of the takehome lessons:

  • If you’re selling a business, a pure consultancy (with no consultants) isn’t super interesting to buyers, only to existing market players
  • Building a consultancy in a super-small niche (when I started I had 4 US competitors and 0 in the UK) means few buyers when you decide to exit (in fairness – I didn’t build the business to sell it, I know better for next time)
  • Design your business with an exit in mind – recurring or passive income has real value to a buyer, make sure you can be removed from the business without damaging it
  • A two week auction was fine but four weeks would have made more sense
  • Soliciting private bids from competitors should have been done sooner rather than later
  • Adding a product or recurring income stream to the business would have added a lot of value (I decided to keep The Screencasting Handbook as an experimental platform)
  • BusinessesForSale is an alternative site, I didn’t know about it when I started, their companies tend to have higher value (flippa isn’t really for consultancy businesses, just simple web businesses)

What next?

Some of you know that I’ve been working in the field of artificial intelligence research for industry over the last 10 years (as both senior programmer, product designer and pure r&d bod) in my Mor Consulting. This role is evolving and I’m turning into a “Data Scientist” (the new shiny term for A.I. researchers!).

I’m also building some new IP by way of web services using A.I. technologies, these are designed with an exit in mind (I’m learning!). If you’re curious about using A.I. in industry see my new A.I.Cookbook.

I’m also continuing to develop The Screencasting Handbook, it is a useful experimental platform and I still very much enjoy teaching the art of screencasting.

If you have any questions, ask away.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: ArtificialIntelligence, Entrepreneur, Life, ProCasts, Screencasting, The Screencasting Handbook

5 August 2010 - 23:08Selling ProCasts

Having built ProCasts during 2009 (from ‘just me’ to a fab team of four) and then letting it sit quietly for the first half of this year I’m now selling the site as a lead-generation opportunity for a lucky fellow screencaster.

The site continues to generate leads each week – this has lead to some odd conversations where I try to explain that I’m not taking on any work – even though the client might be rather desperate for a UK solution. After another odd conversation a week back I decided it was time to pass the site on.

The site is listed at flippa.com, the auction ends in 11 days. Via the message boards I’m having good conversations with existing screencasters and a few new entrants. It feels good to have built an asset that’ll help someone else win more business. Not only does the site generate leads but it also has solid traffic with a Page Rank of 6 and the business gets linked in forums by friendly third parties. Flippa.com has the full details, there’s also a short link on the ProCasts blog.

Personally I’ve returned to my long-term field of artificial intelligence research. The A.I. Cookbook is my new project site, I’m pushing out the ideas that I’ve sat on for years. Times continue to be interesting.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: ArtificialIntelligence, ProCasts, projectbrightonblogs, Screencasting, sussexdigital

17 May 2010 - 21:06Extracting keyword text from screencasts with OCR

Last week I played with the Optical Character Recognition system tesseract applied to video data. The goal – extract keywords from the video frames so Google has useful text to index.

I chose to work with ShowMeDo‘s screencasts as many show programming in action – there’s great keyword information in these videos that can be exposed for Google to crawl. This builds on my recent OCR for plaques project.

I’ll blog in the future about the full system, this is a quick how-to if you want to try the system yourself.

First – get a video. I downloaded video 10370000.flv from Introducing numpy arrays (part 1 of 11).

Next – extract a frame. Using ffmpeg I extracted a frame at 240 seconds as a JPG:

ffmpeg -i 10370000.flv -y -f image2 -ss 240 -sameq -t 0.001  10370000_240.jpg

Tesseract needs TIF input files (not JPGs) so I used GIMP to convert to TIF.

Finally I applied tesseract to extract text:

tesseract 10370000_30.tif 10370000_30 -l eng

This yields:

than rstupr .
See Also
linspate : Evenly spaced numbers with  careful handling of endpoints.
grid: Arrays of evenly spared numbers  in Nrdxmensmns
grid: Grid—shaped arrays of evenly spaced numbers in  Nwiunensxnns
Examples
>>> np.arange(3)
¤rr¤y([¤. 1.  2])
>>> np4arange(3.B)
array([ B., 1., 2.])
>>>  np.arange(3,7)
array([3, A, S, 6])
>>> np.arange(3,7,?)
·=rr··¤y<[3.  5])
III
Ill

Obviously there’s some garbage in the above but there are also a lot of useful keywords!

To clean up the extraction I’ll be experimenting with:

  • Using the original AVI video rather than the FLV (which contains compression artefacts which reduce the visual quality), the FLV is also watermarked with ShowMeDo’s logo which hurts some images
  • Cleaning the image – perhaps applying some thresholding or highlighting to make the text stand out, possibly the green text is causing a problem in this image
  • Training tesseract to read the terminal fonts commonly found in ShowMeDo videos

I tried four images for this test, in all cases useful text was extracted. I suspect that by rejecting short words (less than four characters) and using words that appear at least twice in the video then I’ll have a clean set of useful keywords.

Update – the blog for the A.I. Cookbook is now active, more A.I. and robot updates will occur there.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

1 Comment | Tags: ArtificialIntelligence, Life, Programming, Screencasting, ShowMeDo

14 January 2010 - 11:26Come to my screencasting SkillSwap in Brighton on Jan 27th

On January 27th here in Brighton I’m co-running a SkillSwap evening, I’ll spend 45 minutes teaching screencasting (based on a Mac) and Andy White will spend 45 minutes teaching podcasting.  We’ll cover planning, recording, editing, distributing and mics between us.

We’re both aiming the talks at freelancers (so they can communicate better with clients) and small companies (for training, marketing and demos).  We’re also the authors of The Screencasting Handbook and Podcasting Unleashed.

I’ll cover at least these topics:

  • Free and commercial tools on a Mac (and Windows/Linux if requested)
  • Recording your first screencast with Jing and hosting it on the Web
  • Planning your screencast so it meets the needs of your audience
  • The differences between a sales/marketing screencast and a tutorial
  • Using ScreenFlow to record, edit and produce a screencast and then upload it to YouTube
  • Hosting your own screencast and other distribution options

If you bring a laptop then I can get you started with the free Jing so you can walk away with a recording and hosting solution for Mac and Windows.

If you’re in Brighton then the event is free, see details in Upcoming and sign-up on EventBrite. SkillSwap has been running for years – cheers to Nat and James for finding a spot for us.

Madgex will be sponsoring beer and nibbles, the atmosphere will be relaxed and friendly.  Nat is recording the audio for a podcast and I intend to record a video of the evening for distribution via Vimeo (but of course that won’t be the same as being there and being able to ask questions!).


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

1 Comment | Tags: Screencasting, The Screencasting Handbook

22 November 2009 - 13:30How I’m writing The Screencasting Handbook

Many people have asked why I’m writing a book without a publisher.  The story has interested a bunch of people so I’ll outline the basics here.

Update: there’s a related article by Marc-André Cournoyer covering how he wrote his “Create your own programming language” eBook.

I started writing The Screencasting Handbook in the middle of this year (about 5 months back).  My primary motivation was to write a useful Handbook that teaches my 4 years of skills to new screencasters.  My main goals were to:

  • Release early, release often – so I can iterate based on the needs of my readers rather than the needs I’d guess that they have (based on some support at the Business of Software forum)
  • Get the written parts out as soon as possible – I didn’t want drafts kicking around for a year before a publisher released them to the readers, I wanted the chapters out in the hands of readers as soon as possible
  • Build a community (Google Group) around the Handbook – so my readers can ask and answer questions without me acting as a bottleneck

To achieve this I needed to create a site and determine if there was demand for the topic.  I had a WordPress theme created which signs potential readers up to an AWeber mailing list (costing $20USD/month) and I setup a Google Group.

I then put the word out to screencasters, mostly through ShowMeDo and by writing some useful blog posts that were picked up by screencasting companies.

At the same time I wrote a proposed Table of Contents (August) and released a survey via SurveyMonkey (free account).  I released this into the Google Group and asked for feedback.  I iterated a few times (September) based on feedback until everyone figured that I would cover the most beneficial topics.  At this point I added the Table of Contents as a PDF to the Handbook’s homepage.

By now I had 50 or so people signed up to the list – between the silent sign-ups and the active users in the Google Group I knew that the book would be in demand.  The survey detailed all the areas that caused problems for screencasters so I could be sure that by answering those questions, others would want the Handbook.

Pricing and releasing

At this point I cracked on with writing the Handbook.  I quickly went from 1,000 words to 10,300 and in October I announced that a new release was being prepared for sale.  I announced that the target price of the finished book would be $39USD and that early-bird purchasers could get it for $26USD (a 1/3 discount).  I also offer an unconditional refund at any time.

The payment gateway is PayPal and the front-end is e-junkie, they take payment and offer downloads for just $5/month.  Integrating the e-junkie basket into WordPress involves copying over a few lines of javascript, it is all very simple

At the start of November I released version 4 into the Google Group and announced it on the mailing list, this was quickly followed by a 5th release which added a new chapter.  I’m also about to decrease the discount by $1 taking the price up to $27USD.

After purchase everyone gets invited onto a second emailing list for Handbook Updates (and they’re removed from the first mailing list).  The second list is used to mail out links to updated versions of the PDF.  I also mail out a second survey about a week after purchase to ask the reader if they found the book useful and to ask what else I need to cover soon.  The feedback from the surveys and the Google Group is invaluable.

Figures so far – in several months with only a little effort at publicity I signed up over 200 users to the mailing list.  Just over 10% of those became buyers in the first week of releasing version 4 (given that the book is only about 1/6th written I’m pretty happy with this).  Next week I’ll be writing a couple of extra chapters and then I’ll be increasing my publicity.

I’m releasing my beginner screencasts on the Handbook’s blog for free, this will help prove the quality of the Handbook and it will bring in more visitors.

Print on demand?

Once I reach ‘edition 1′ I imagine I’ll release a print-on-demand version via lulu.  Several readers have already asked for a printed copy rather than a PDF.  ‘edition 1′ is a way off yet – probably early next year some time.

Tools

I’m writing the Handbook with Google Docs, I can edit it from home or whilst sitting in Cafe Delice.

To publish a new version I download a PDF.  I use Apple’s Preview to open the PDF and then ‘print to PDF’ a shorter version containing just the first 15 or so pages.

I upload the shorter version as the Outline to the Handbook’s homepage.  The longer version goes to e-junkie (for new purchasers) and to my second AWeber list (where everyone who has bought a copy gets notified about new releases).

I’ve used Google Website Optimizer to A/B test the landing page, with the Google Website Optimizer plugin for WordPress you just copy over the javascript that GWO provides to three pages (A, B and result page) and it starts to track conversions.  If there’s interest I’ll write some details on the (few) things that I’ve learned about landing page design.

I’ve already discussed AWeber, SurveyMonkey and Google Groups above.

Having an ‘accountability buddy’ helps!

Andy White is writing Podcasting Unleashed at the same time, we’re meeting every two weeks to push each other forwards and trade tips.  We’re both using WordPress and he’s about to move to Aweber so we’ll have pretty much the same setup.  Knowing that your partner is making progress when you’re having a slow day is a great motivator to write a few more pages!

Edition 2?

I’m thinking about the needs of a second edition, I’m wondering if a book format (with a linear series of pages) is wrong and perhaps a wiki is a better tool.  It would certainly allow collaborative content creation.  I’d also like to build some tools like an automatic de-noiser and a scripting tool.

Want to write you own eBook?

It occurs to me that the above process might be useful to other people who want to write their own book, particularly those who want to get early feedback from a potential audience before committing to write a full book.

One possibility is the construction of a site that makes ‘everything easy’ for a potential author.  If you’d like to know if I push this idea in the future, make a comment below which includes your email.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

2 Comments | Tags: Business Idea, Entrepreneur, Life, ProCasts, Screencasting, The Screencasting Handbook

30 September 2009 - 13:45Internship ‘How to build a network’ workshop

Tomorrow I run a workshop for WiredSussex to teach 35 interns ‘how to build a network’.  I’ll write an update that links to my presentation after the workshop, here I want to link to a few examples I’ll probably use.

Update – I now have a full write-up which makes this post obsolete.

OpenStreetMap early progress videos for London 2006- and worldwide-2008 edits.

My past projects include working for MASA, building IMOzsvaldSystems, building Mor Consulting Ltd, co-building ShowMeDo with Kyran Dale, co-creating £5 App with John Montgomery, building ProCasts.

My pages on LinkedIn, Twitter, my blog.

Some events: Linkmind, OpenCoffeeSussex, £5 App, BrightonFarm, FlashBrighton, BrightArray, BuildBrighton, BrightonRobotics, Slackspace, Brighton Business on LinkedIn, WriteClub, BANG, Brighton Illustrators, Girl Geeks, UXBri, CultureGeeks, GeekWineThing

The main discussion list is the BNM.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: Entrepreneur, Screencasting

7 September 2009 - 11:31BarCamp and “Screencasting in 7 Minutes with Jing” workshop

Jay, Jon and co. ran another excellent BarCamp Brighton this weekend which followed dConstruct09.  There’s a long, good write-up here.

I’m not entirely sure of the right tag for flickr – it seems that ‘bcb4′ (which I’d thought was official) conflicts with BarCamp Bangalore and BarCamp Boston…ho hum.  Anyhow, here’s one of mine:

My session was a 30 minute workshop on ‘Screencasting in 7 minutes with Jing‘ (now picked up by TechSmith – thanks Betsy!), I signed-up 7 new people to screencasting including freelancers and a Thales employee so I consider that a Win.  The link has a break-down of what was covered, a video of the session and the resulting screencast by Jez via my machine.

In the session I covered the following as examples of how screencasts are used by others:

  • Jay’s Gibraltar Software screencast produced in 3 days with Camtasia on Windows (via my friendly critique)
  • Google Chrome screencasts for examples of 10-20 second feature tours
  • DropBox intro screencast which shows two computers syncing (via a virtual Windows instance) – see the Windows desktop about 1/6th of the way into the video
  • ShowMeDo’s OpenStreetMap videos for open-source tutorials
  • MailChimp’s homepage video as a warning – lots of style (it is quite pretty) but very little informative content!

Musical entertainment was provided by 100 Robots (Jim of SecondLife and Max, Alex was absent so we had Jim loudly on the vocals), the foundation of the Old Music Library shook nicely:


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: BNM, projectbrightonblogs, Screencasting, sussexdigital, The Screencasting Handbook

30 August 2009 - 13:583,000 words written for the Screencasting Handbook

I figured a quick update was in order before I start today’s round of writing. To date I’ve written 3,000 words for The Screencasting Handbook.  I’m very happy to say that the feedback from my 32 active participants is very supportive, we talk about early releases of the book in our Google Group.

I’m still in the prototyping phase, the chapter outlines were settled a month back (thanks to some great Group feedback) and 2 weeks back I received another round of great feedback after I released the first 3,000 words.

To date I’ve covered a background on ‘why screencasts work’ and ‘how screencasts are used’ (e.g. demos, training, academic tuition, recording meetings).  Today I’ll be sketching a guide to ‘screencasting in 30 minutes’ using Jing and expanding the ‘microphone examples’ section.

Later in September I aim to release the first commercial version of the book, the target price will be $39USD (£25GBP) and the early versions will be discounted (given that the first release will only be 1/3 complete!).  Get onto the mailing list to be notified about the discounted first release.  All purchasers will of course receive all the updates through to the finished pdf publication.

Alan Pope (famously of the Ubuntu Screencasting project) and Gasto (esteemed author inside ShowMeDo) have both written great short posts about the Handbook’s progress.

Along the way I’ve also setup a page listing all the screencast software I know of along with a set of 24 screencasting tips.

Tools used to date include WordPress, Google Docs, AWeber and SurveyMonkey.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: Screencasting, The Screencasting Handbook

4 August 2009 - 21:57MockupScreens and ECMerge Screencast Tours

I’m rather chuffed with our two most recent ProCasts screencam productions.

For Igor of MockupScreens.com we’ve produced our first dual-narration screencast, this one shows you a typical use of his rapid UI mock-up tool.  Richard takes on the voice of the client, I take the voice of the contractor who is making the mock-up:

For Armel of Ellié Computing we produced a short demo to walk-through the main features of his programmer’s diff tool ECMerge:

If you want to learn about improving your screencast skills, you should check-out our Screencast Handbook.


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: Life, ProCasts, Screencasting

31 July 2009 - 17:59The Micropreneur Academy

Rob Walling has been working to build the Micropreneur Academy – a focused site aimed at MicroISV’s who want to grow their businesses into high-value, fast-growth affairs (original May announce).

He contacted me a few months back to ask if I’d like to contribute an article on how screencasts can boost sales of software products, naturally I jumped at the chance!

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I first logged in.  Rob had sent me a login as I wanted to know what the community looked like, and what they’d need, before I wrote the article.  I was pleasently surprised to see a sort of mini-BusinessOfSoftware forum (i.e. friendly, helpful people who are working on cool stuff) backed by an awful lot of solid start-up knowledge written by Rob.

Knowing that I’d have to add an article of similar quality I spent time dissecting Rob’s articles.  Having worked in start-ups for 10 years and having founded 3 of my own, I had an idea about a lot of the content, but I kept finding nuggets of really useful material in Rob’s articles.

I was left wishing I’d had access to this when Kyran and I had founded ShowMeDo back in 2005!  I must also confess – I ended up using some of Rob’s ideas on market research to help plan my new eBook entitled The Screencasting Handbook.

Anyhow, I ought to cut this long story short.  I wrote the article and found a set of happy readers inside Rob’s forum.  I’m now also a mentor in his group because of my experience with on-line community building in ShowMeDo.

Rob’s about to open up the site to new membership, so if you have an interest in finding a closed group of people who are all building their own online start-ups, backed by lots of solid knowledge, do take a look at the Micropreneur Academy.

You can see two other write-ups by paying members for an idea of the value they see in the site.  Rob’s also very chatty, you can easily get in touch with him if you sign-up to ask any questions.

The following are a couple of the start-ups run by members of the academy (I don’t know any of these, but I did recommend another start-up who has happily joined!):


Ian applies Data Science as an AI/Data Scientist for companies in ModelInsight, sign-up for Data Science tutorials in London. Historically Ian ran Mor Consulting. He also founded the image and text annotation API Annotate.io, co-authored SocialTies, programs Python, authored The Screencasting Handbook, lives in London and is a consumer of fine coffees.

No Comments | Tags: Business Idea, Entrepreneur, ProCasts, Screencasting, ShowMeDo