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What sound does Botany make?

On this site, it’s going to sound like an electronic assistant reading blog posts to you.

You can listen to this page as an audio file.

If you have ever wanted to listen to the items we post on Botany One, then now you can. You should see an audio player that will play a version of this post above this paragraph. We’ve found we can produce reasonable text to speech files with Google Wavenet voices. Our goal now will be to create audio versions of posts from here on.

I say a version because there will be some differences between the written and audio versions. For example, above this paragraph makes no sense in an audio file.

An image of a robot passing headphones to a woman, as a metaphor for a computer-generated podcast. The slightly fixed grin on the woman suggests this may be a dystopia, but we're not going to dwell on that.
Image: Canva.

The reason we’re doing this is to see if it helps with accessibility. If you’re using a screen reader, then you can read this site anyway. However, because we haven’t been writing with audio in mind, things might sometimes get a bit messy if you rely on a screen reader. I hope the audio files will be more ear-friendly.

They’ll also help with proofreading the posts.

We’ll be hosting the files on Anchor.fm, so if you want to skip this site altogether and listen to pages instead, you should be able to subscribe on your favourite podcatcher. I’ll usually need to upload the audio file before publishing the written text, so you might see some items come out on Anchor before they reach here.

Where can I leave feedback?

The audio files are a work in progress, and I may have set up some parameters wrong. For example, you might find the speech too fast or too slow. We will be experimenting to see what works best. You’re welcome to leave comments below this post, or on any other post with audio, or via Anchor’s message function.

Also, the files are currently only in English, despite having an increasing number of Spanish posts. This gap is because I don’t have a good enough ear to tell what works in Spanish. We are working on it, and there should be Spanish language audio in the future. It will take longer to produce audio for any French or Portuguese posts.

Alun Salt

Alun (he/him) is the Producer for Botany One. It's his job to keep the server running. He's not a botanist, but started running into them on a regular basis while working on writing modules for an Interdisciplinary Science course and, later, helping teach mathematics to Biologists. His degrees are in archaeology and ancient history.

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