Wednesday, April 1, 2009

SlideShare: Don't get fooled again

Following with interest the comments to a blog post over at Mashable about the SlideShare 4/1 prank. As a joke, SS sent out an email to folks who had posted on the site identifying them as 'rockstars' because of sudden interest in their content. They go on to suggest tweeting the good news with a #bestofslideshare hashtag " we can track the conversation." And then to make it seem legit, they bumped everybody's numbers 100x, so if you had 24 views, you suddenly had 2400 views. Here's what I commented on the Mashable:

I think a lot of commenters are missing the point. It's not a question of whether the joke was funny or not. Humor is as subjective as beauty. Some people don't think any practical joke is ever funny, and some people can't get enough of them. We will never answer the question “was this funny or not”.

The real question is: was this a smart move? Was the guerrilla marketing buzz generated worth the possible alienation of some of the site’s users? And more importantly what does this do to their brand? What does Slideshare want us to think about their brand? Do they want to be the LinkedIn of presentation sites, or do they want to be the MySpace? In that light, I think that this was not a very smart move. For me personally, it makes me think that Slideshare is a little frivolous and not entirely professional. It makes any information from SS slightly suspect in my eyes…maybe only slightly, but do you ever want your brand to be considered even slightly suspect? If you think that makes me a humorless dolt who ‘needs to lighten up and take my self less seriously…” well so be it. I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. But I have to say that messing with your brand image in such unstable times is risky at best.

What do you think?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

AG09 - Notes on EverNote

Rather than continuing to put my notes for the eLearning Guild Annual Gathering here, I've started putting my notes in a public notebook on EverNote. I wish I had thought to put my note in EverNote originally, but I hadn't really started using EN when I was in Orlando.

I'm interested if anyone else is using EverNote like this.

AG09 notes are here.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Articulate Live Recap - Part 3

Still feeling a bit under the weather. I came back to the room after the last session and just crashed for about 3 hours. Woke up feeling a little better and not really able to sleep. So I'm going to see if I can wrap up my notes for Articulate Live.

I didn't know you could do that in with Articulate
Gary Wasiluk of 3M

It didn't exactly live up to it's name because most of the things shown, I did know that they could be done in Articulate, but there were a few fresh bits of knowledge. I didn't capture the step by steps of the how to's, because they went so quickly and the session files are supposed to be online. I haven't found them on the Articulate site or the ELearning Guild site, I don't know if that's because I'm a out of it and not thinking clearly, or if stuff hasn't been posted yet, but I will follow up when I have a link. Here are few examples of the stuff I found interesting:
  • Transparent background in Engage: You can put an Engage with a transparent background into presenter and use the interactive aspect of engage over your presenter content. I have some questions about this and haven't really thought through all of the possible applications but seems like there're some intriguing possibilities.
  • Video in presenter panel: This is something that never really struck me as a very interesting or useful thing, because it always seems like just a superfluous talking head over in the upper left corner, but in the example that he presented, he used full left hand panel and it looked really sharp.

  • Trick for embedding YouTube video: Using the html object and pulling the url (just the url, not the full embed code) from the embed code on the YouTube page + height and width. Only caveat I would add here is that this does leave you open to a problem if the video is yanked from YouTube for copyright or TOS violations.
  • Recommended: Dave Moxon's blog
  • Recommended: Kineo. He talked about this as an add on tool for presenter. Did I get that right? I went and looked around the site briefly, but didn't see an Articulate connection. There was a lot of nodding in agreement when he brought it up, so seemed like something worth to looking into.
Sure-Fire Tips to Make your Articulate Courses Look Better
Dave Anderson, Countrywide

Good session. Preaching to the choir, from my point of view. The basics:
  • Create a visual style guide. Fonts, colors, images etc. to establish a consistent visual experience.
  • Basic understanding of fonts and what font for what purpose.
  • Select display fonts appropriate to the message.
  • Select graphics with a consistent stylistic approach.
  • Don't pick an image based solely on the subject matter, also consider: composition, point of view, temperature etc. as these aspects influence the massage of the image. Interesting point here: he used temperature as an example and said warm colors represent danger, anger, conflict and cool colors represent calm and safety. I would have said warm = comfort, safety, home and cool = sterile, lack of compassion or emotion. I can see an argument both ways so I guess it depends on the quality of temperature.
This Ain't your Grandma's Quizzing Tool
Tom Kuhlmann

Great to hear Tom speak in person. He does really cool things with Articulate tools and if you don't follow his blog, you should! He was moving pretty quickly in this session and (again) the files are (going to be?) posted on the Articulate site...I haven't found them yet, but I haven't done a thorough search. In the meantime, take a look at these examples. Lots and lots of inspiration here.

Guru Awards
More great examples. I won't spend the time talking about them. Just go look and be inspired.

That's it. That was ArticulateLive09 from where I sat. I hope these notes are helpful. Feel free to post question or comments. Tomorrow on the plane, I'll start working on notes from the ELearning Guild Gathering sessions. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

ELearning Guild - a long day

Planning my sessions for tomorrow, and going to bed soon. I'm not feeling so hot. I'll have to catch up on the notes later. I'm exhausted but it was a good day. I can't believe that Jeff Howe's keynote was just this morning. Seems like about 3 days ago. More tomorrow.

ELearning Guild - thoughts on 2.0

Wow. Again: tons of information.

Lots of discussion today about web 2.0 technology and techniques. Several times today I've heard that we have to move beyond command and control in learning. But I think that's easier said than done. I'd love to see some guidance for how to encourage folks to let go some of that control. How open will most leaders in most organizations be to allowing user generated content in learning? There is a lot strategy for implementing the technology and tools, but how do you implement the thinking?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Articulate Live Recap - Part 2

Cathy Moore

Key Point:
  • Story (again with the story!) & emotion
  • Avoid information dump
  • Action not info
Similar to what Cliff talked about in the keynote but with more of a learning focus (Cathy is after all an Instructional Designer). Cathy spoke first about the business-as-usual information dump style of elearning and how ineffective it is. More here about emotional impact of a story on the learner as opposed to facts and figures. She had a great diagram of a typical course with a ring of quizzes, each one attached to a piece of information, and all those bits of information converging in on the faulty assumption that got the whole thing going: the learner needs to KNOW something. The learner, of course, needs to DO something.
She then walked us through her process which she calls action mapping. It involves four steps, which basically are:
  1. Identify goal of the course
  2. Identify actions to achieve goal
  3. Design activities that put actions into practice
  4. Identify the least info ("What people really, really need to know).
There was a lot of good stuff here. I'm not an Instructional Designer (and I don't even play one on TV) but I have worked with a lot of IDs and I've been in elearning for a decade now. A lot of this stuff is very familiar: the course goal should be tied to business objectives, objectives should be SMART, avoid thought-based learning objectives etc. But I really like the way she said a lot of it and I really, really like the mapping approach. It's like mind mapping in course dev. I think that it opens some interesting doors. Of course, when it comes down to it, a course with a story, even a branching story, is going to be linear. But in the initial stages, there is no reason why you have start with that kind of framework. The mapping metaphor might let the story grow more organically.
Some tidbits from the session:
  • Create questions that test synthesis, not retention.
  • Rather then teach a bunch of info, put the info in a job and teach how to use the job aid.
  • There are two kinds of job aid: Planners (used before the task) and Sidekicks (used after the task).
  • Avoid verbs that happen in the head (for learning objectives)
  • Create activities that test if the learner can use the information, not if they know the information
  • How will you know if the course has succeeded (i.e. met business objective).
Further reading:
Customer Success Stories
Dan Rollins - Allianz
Brian McFarlin - Univeristy of Houston
Eric Berg - LINGOs

Interesting talks from these gentleman about how they have incorporated Articulate tools into their very different work environments. Interesting but not terribly useful. I found them a bit too specific to their own circumstance and the talks too general and high level to be of much use. One very interesting tidbit from Brian though:
Now my understanding of the conventional wisdom about the GenY population entering the workforce is that they are all digital natives and therefore they are primed and ready to go with elearning. They don't have the mental barriers that Boomers or GenXers might have. But Brain's take on it went like this: the school had been pushing professors to put portions of their course on line, but these folks had no idea how to do that and were very skeptical online learning anyway. So they'd take a transcript of their lecture, turn it into .pdf, put it online and call it elearning. When Brian came along and tried to do an actual blended approach with real elearning tools, these GenY students were very resistant to the idea at first, because they already had exposure to 'elearning' and it had been lame. I know it's always tricky to talk in generalities about any group, and probably every college is having a slightly different experience with elearning, but I still found it fascinating that this one anecdotal experience bucks the established stereotype. The poplulation that we are expecting to be wide open, could very well have a subpopulation that is already biased against.

End of part 2

Monday, March 9, 2009

Articulate Live Recap - Part 1

It was a long day with a lot of information. Some of it general to elearning and some of it specific to Articulate. My brain is pretty well saturated and I think some of the info is still seeping in, but here is an overview of what I got out of the day.

Big Picture

The theme that kept coming up over and over is throwing out the conventional (I hesitate to call it) wisdom with PowerPoint for a more direct, emotional approach. In other words, replace the bullet points with a story. This came out explicitly from the very start in Cliff Atkinson's keynote and others, as well as implicitly in the style of the work that was shown throughout the day. There were plenty of other ideas that kept surfacing; ideas that you'd expect to hear at a conference about a tools like the Articulate tools, in times like these. Things like: speed, ease of use, ROI. But what we seemed to come back to over and over was storytelling. The theme of the conference was "Be an elearning Hero" but it really should have been "Tell an elearning Story."

Keynote - Cliff Atkinson:Beyond Bullet Points

Key points:
  • Story not information
  • Make it personal
  • Working memory only holds small bits
  • Change the metaphor from paper to film
  • Chunk information
  • Use visuals
Although I have not read Cliff's book, I am very familiar his ideas and his web site. Again, this was all about using the medium to tell a good story. Not letting PPT's built in structures and the usual way of doing things lock us into creating ineffective training.
He talked about the way memory works. The way working memory, which is only capable of holding 4 items, thoughts, facts at a time (used to be 7, i guess Google is making us stoopit), so setting a learner in front of 40 slides, all crammed with information is just pointless. The vast majority of that information will simply slip out of working memory and never be committed to long term memory, resulting in fragmented learning.
Then he walked us through his method with an example course using his story template and other tools and techniques. Sort of a course makeover.
All in all it, was a great talk and very engaging. Cliff is a good speaker and obviously a very skilled presenter. Lots of thought-provoking ideas about presentation design. Couple thing bothere me a bit. It felt to me that this was his standard spiel shoehorned into an learning context. That's not a huge dig, because is standard spiel is so good. But I would have liked a little more shift in focus to learning. Also, the course makeover was just OK. It wasn't very dramatic or revelatory, but did serve to underscore the points and ideas in his main talk, but I could have used less of it.

Additional stuff:
Cambridge Handbook of Multimedia Learning - Richard Mayer (pricey!)

Cliff didn't mention these, but they are in a similar vein:
Slide:ology - Nancy Duarte
Presentation Zen - Garr Reynolds
Also see part 2 for Cathy Moore

Anything else?

End Part 1

I digress

I came back to my room after a long and information filled day at Articulate Live 09 and, after changing into my evening attire, I sat down to collect my thoughts about the day, review my notes, answer my email...but there was just too much. My mind was a jumble. I needed to turn off my brain for a bit. Oh hey, TV! Perfect! A vice I don't indulge at home (accept a few Hulu guilty pleasures).

It was a mistake.

I'm not pleased at Hilton's transparently cynical game of hiding regular TV, buried at the end of long menu of pay options, that you have to go through every time you want to switch the channel. What's the point of even having a remote? After much frustration, I eventually decided on the History channel. But nothing there about the Tower of London, or the reign of the emperor Ashoka, or even what I had come to think of as the History Channel stock in trade: endless and apparently unedited interviews with WWII vets over stock footage of Kamikaze planes crashing into the Pacific. No, the History Channel was showing the scourge of ultra-violent gangs sweeping across the country. Ack! No! Change the channel...3 minutes of menu shuffling later: Wolf Blitzer was droning on about the sinking global economy. O forget it.

So I went out for a walk.

March in the afternoon in Orlando feels oddly like late August in the evening in northern California, only humid. The fresh air felt better that the hotel AC, but it made me feel even more displaced and homesick. I wandered West...I guess almost instinctively. Like I was following the setting sun to the ocean, but that's wrong too here. I didn't walk far before I ended up at the gates of Downtown Disney. What the hell. When in Roman.

Just a few months ago I was at the mirror coast version of this bizarre 21 century corporate bazaar and wasn't nearly as creeped out. Why was I so completely creeped out today? It's partly because I was sans kids toady. Disney with kids gives you a clean and innocent take on it, or does so for me anyway. Seeing Disneyland through my kids eyes lets me turn off my cynical and suspicious mind. I can let go of the corporate, marketed, targeted, manipulation of experience and just enjoy the creative, designed...and yes, Goddammit, the MAGIC of the place. Also, with my wife there I was just happier, more open to the positive aspects. Love, not even new love, but comfortable old love, love that's been hanging on and hanging tough for the better part of 2 decades is willing to let a body relax and play.

But the Magic Kingdom without loved ones is a strange and inhospitable place. All the cynical aspects of Disney are in sharp relief when you are alone. The global downturn, recession, death-spiral, whatever it is, has apparently not reached the Magic Kingdom. I don't think I have ever seen so many overfeed, IPhone-toting, expensively- yet casually-shod consumers slurping down junk food in my life. And the smell! What is it with that Disney smell? I associate it with the rides, and I used to think it had something to do with the chlorine of the water rides, but I smell it just as strongly waiting in line for Peter Pan or Snow White as I do Pirates. And it is there, in spades, in Downtown Disney. It must be something in the stuff they use to fashion all the textured facades and such. Some kind of latex/fiberglass/cement stuff. And again when I'm with the family, it smells like, fun and excitement. But alone it just smells like a billion dollar smirk.

I thought that perhaps with all this consumerism around I could find a bookstore to buy a magazine or a book. But it turns out that downtown Disney has at least that much in common with the real world: Just like our town of San Rafael (which incidentally 20 years ago had no less then 6 independent bookstores downtown) Downtown Disney has no bookstore.

I return defeated, and started working my way through my notes and email.

I watched Heroes tonight. The first time I've ever watched it on TV, not on Hulu. I delighted in the silly fantasy and gritty dark edge. I moaned in frustrated disgust at the vapid and voluminous ads. I was in ecstasy when an incidental character quoted a John Hodgman bit from This American Life. Even though Heroes is not part of my family life at home, it made me feel comfortable and at home.

It's a strange, strange world.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Alive and well and blogging in Orlando

After a very long day of travel, I am in Orlando, checked in and ready for Articulate Live tomorrow morning. Actually, today! Ug. I am still very much on San Francisco time. Better get to bed and get a little sleep. More coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

12 Brain Rules

I enjoyed this post on Donald Clark’s blog post about John Medina’s book 12 Brain Rules as well as Medina’s companion web site. Lot’s of interesting information here about how the ways we live, work, and learn are not in sync with the way our brains actually function. I think there is more ammunition here for the ongoing battle against course bloat and course blah. I just don’t believe that most people are going to learn anything from 49 slides of bullet points and a droning audio track.

Subject for another day: companion websites.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Why am I here?

Welcome to my brand-spankin’ new blog! This is my place to explore ideas and concepts related to the work I do every day and hopefully reach out and connect with others who are doing similar work. I have been involved in e-learning for almost a decade now and I am still excited by the possibilities and continually frustrated by the failures. I’ve seen some great stuff produced and I have watched ideas and projects with great potential crash and burn for one reason or another. It’s a crazy and interesting time to be involved in this field.

Here’s what I see as my key areas of focus, both in this blog and generally for my personal inclinations:

  1. Visual design / Visual communication
  2. E-Learning / Learning theory / instructional design
  3. Storytelling
  4. Social media
  5. Interaction design

I’d say, probably number 1 will always sit firmly at number 1. The others may shift in importance to me. My posts on this blog will undoubtedly travel in tight orbit around these 5 main ideas. I’m not promising that there won’t be the occasional tangential foray, but this is my personal center of gravity.

So if you’ve found me, and our interests overlap, please drop me a comment and let me know who you are and where your blog is. Also, you can follow me on Twitter: