Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Time - Toastmasters Speech #7

Mister Toastmaster, fellow toastmasters and guests. Today I'm talking about time. More specifically I'm talking about the Toastmasters Timer.

I've been a member of Toastmasters for almost a year now and this has given me the opportunity to present a few speeches but even more opportunity to practice speeches. Each person has their own way that they like to practice. For me, it's in front on my computer. I've found that my computer has been exceptionally supportive. If I say something that I think is funny I can play the laughter sound file and the computer always responds. I have one laughter sound file that goes on for 15 seconds, one that gives riotous applause and another that says "ahhhhhhhh" if I were to say something cute.

Another important support function the computer provides is that of video recording. I used to record all my practice sessions and play them back and count the ums and ahs and measured improvement. Although I still do that every now and then I find that in the time it takes to play back the video I could have practiced the speech again and we all know how precious time is.

The final support function that the computer provides is that of timer. Here you can see the timer that I use during practice sessions. If you wish to use this timer I would be happy to send you a link.

When I discovered that I needed a screen based timer I searched for an online timer and came across a couple of them. The two that I found had some drawbacks. The times were difficult to configure, the time and color changes were small and difficult to see when you are pacing up and down in front the screen. I needed big time and big color. The only option was to write a timer that addressed those concerns and this is what you see here.

When I was researching this speech I went off to find as many different timers as I could find and this is what I came up with:
Seventeen online web browser based timers.
One windows downloadable application.
Two iPhone applications
Three Android applications

I had clearly not done sufficient research when I originally wrote this timer. On examination of each of the browser based timers I was happy to note that none of them fulfilled my requirements and they were all very similar so it turned out that my time wasn't wasted.

I installed one of the timers for the Android Phone and discovered some functionality that I had not expected. My idea of a computer based Toastmaster Timer was to perform the single function of keeping the time for one speech. The Android App allows you to add a person's name once the timing has completed and will keep track of each person speaking during that meeting. That got me thinking that you could expand this application to allow members to keep track of all their speeches over time if you extended the functionality of the application.

One of the big advantages of a web based timer is that it will run on any device that has a browser. This means that you can use this timer on your iPhone, your Android, your PC, your iPad, and your Mac.

Once I’d done my research and decided that I had to create my own timer to satisfy my needs I then had to do some more research and determine the language in which I was going to write the software. This is a somewhat misleading statement because in a browser the only language that will work is JavaScript.

Has anybody heard of JavaScript?
Has anybody heard of Java?
Who knows what the difference between these two languages are?

Java is to JavaScript as ham is to hamster or car is to carpet. They are very different languages that share part of name for marketing purposes.

Because JavaScript is the only language you can use in the browser and because it’s such a popular language there are a number of languages like CoffeeScript, ClojureScript, Dart, and TypeScript that compile, or more accurately transpile, into JavaScript.

I chose to use the variant TypeScript to create the functionality on this timer. I picked it because it had just been released and I wanted to learn a new language.

This timer is a great tool to practice against. At a toastmasters meeting the objective of the timer is to communicate time to the speaker in the most efficient, reliable and unobtrusive manner as possible. This tool will do it but the stoplights might be more practical and appropriate. Of course there are also other methods. You could hold up different colored cards or even shout out the colors. Here's a link to it: Toastmaster Timer.

This speech was about time and how I created a tool to communicate the time to me. That tool as well as the stoplight being operated by the timer both confirm that it is time for me to stop talking and thank you for your time.

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