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Monday, December 31, 2007

Looking Back at 2007

In December 2006, I posted my challenges and predictions for 2007. I thought it would be worth looking back at what I said in this post to see how I did for the year. Shortly, I'll be responding to this month's Big Question with my Predictions for Learning in 2008.

Biggest challenges for 2007?

I could answer this as the biggest challenges for Learning Professionals generally, and maybe I'll come back and do that, but for now, let me just write what I see as some of my bigger challenges in 2007.

  • Finding high quality people, especially programmers

    This may come as a surprise, but it's really hard to find really good on-shore development talent. Especially since I'm spoiled by a really great, really nice, fun group of developers.
We were very fortunate. I found several very high quality developers at several levels in 2007. Still the market (at least in Los Angeles) remains very tight. Of course, part of the issue is that we spoiled by the quality of our current developers and finding people who match up makes it tough.
  • Deciding if I should be speaking more or less at conferences?

    I love going to conferences when there's energy and I meet interesting people with interesting problems. I hate hearing the same presentations over and over. The last couple conferences have been interesting again, but I'm not sure if that trend will continue. In the meantime, I'm spending more time blogging and in virtual sessions. Those seem to have been a good replacement for my conference time. I'm still unsure how I should spend my time.
I'm still debating around this. I've basically limited myself to eLearningGuild and ASTD conferences. My expectation is that I'll be doing more speaking in 2009 based on some new work. But, I've increased my blogging and writing and decreased my speaking. Still not sure.

  • Retooling my knowledge

    I've been paid to be a CTO type consultant on a broad range of topics. And if you are talking Reusable Learning Objects, Courseware Templates, Tracking Mechanisms, Content Management, etc. I'm really well positioned. Of course, since I'm truly believe that the form of what we will be building in the future is changing and things like RLOs and Courseware are going to become much less important, then my current knowledge base seems diminished. Instead, I now need to get smart on things like community, networks, personal knowledge management and other such topics. These have normally been tangential, but I see them as core moving forward. I've already started on this, but the challenge is knowing where to focus.
This is an area where I really believe I've made considerable progress during the year. I've been doing a lot of work on custom content delivery and even more on the implications of Web 2.0 on all kinds of businesses. This continues to be a challenge, but I'm way ahead of where I was starting 2007.
  • What does all of this mean? What will the landscape look like in 10 years?

    Along the same lines, I really am challenged right now to understand where all of this is going. If it doesn't look like a course and doesn't look like a reference system, what will it look like? What is the form of informal learning?
Still working on this, but my belief is that the picture is not going to be a simple, clear answer.
  • Why am I not finding more opportunities to create front-end tools?

    I am a big believer in the ability of web sites to provide simple forms that a user can fill out, that captures data that can be reused, and then feeds the data into templates that provide significant value. At the simplest, these are dynamic job aids. More complex solutions look like marriage matching (eHarmony), action planning solutions (large retailer), marketing support tools (large financial services). These are the most powerful and best solutions that I can personally be involved in. Yet the projects are sparse. My challenge is to find more of these projects.
I've slowly been finding more opportunities around these kinds of implementations. I've also been writing articles on exactly these kinds of solutions. I continue to hope to find additional examples of these sorts of things because they still have the great potential to make a big difference for learners.
  • Find Lots of Examples of eLearning 2.0

    I've already started to identify some of the initial eLearning 2.0 kinds of solutions that people can adopt right now. But 2007 would seem to be a good time to find even more smart, small, starter examples of solutions that don’t fit within classic eLearning, eReference type solutions.
This is probably my biggest failure for 2007. During a panel session in the fall discussing a few examples of eLearning 2.0 solutions, the panelists told us about interesting examples. When we asked where we could find out more, the answer was that there really wasn't a place to hear about these solutions. That's a problem for me/us.

What are your predictions for 2007?

  • More learning professionals are going to find themselves blogging.
If you had asked me about this in June, I would have been worried, but it seems like there's been a wave of new bloggers this last fall... More eLearning Bloggers.

  • Discussion will emerge/increase around the next generation of LMS that focus on quick access to content, search, web 2.0 capabilities, with tracking being done behind the scenes. In the meantime, LMS Dissatisfaction will continue to the Rise and Do You WANT an LMS? Does a Learner WANT an LMS?
  • I somewhat got this wrong as the big LMS vendors seem to now refer to themselves in terms of talent management and workforce productivity rather than innovating around the learning itself. However, there's Communities / Social Networking and LMS Merger
    announcement around Mzinga. There's also more community platforms and other kinds of alternative solutions being discussed. So, there has been some innovation. Part of the issue is that if the picture is a loosely coupled collection of tools, then what's the role of a central piece of software?
    • Discussion will emerge/increase that SCORM doesn't fit next generation learning.
    I still believe SCORM doesn't fit the world of eLearning 2.0, but interestingly the discussion has been more of how to fit SCORM on top of alternative tools such as Wikis rather than the demise of SCORM. So, I get low marks on this one.
    • 2007 will have even more creativity around types of solutions and how those solutions get created.
    This is definitely true, but it didn't go as far as I would have thought.
    • Informal learning will be a big topic and will become more formal
    Interestingly, I feel like there's been less discussion of informal learning (as a term) during 2007. Part of this is that as you formalize aspects of it, it's really no longer informal learning.

    • Courses and Courseware are going to continue to fade
    I believe this is true, but it's going to be a long cycle. Think classroom training to eLearning. How long did that take 15 years and counting?

    • Training 2007 will still have a blind spot around eLearning 2.0, but one keynote by IBM will open some eyes
    Yep. And, not sure if the keynote happened, but certainly some stuff out of IBM is opening eyes. And definitely I think that recent sessions I've done have opened some eyes.

    • It will be harder and harder to find any software getting installed locally
    • We will start to see Wikis and tools like ZohoCreator being used by normal people like us to build simple web applications - similar in complexity to spreadsheet programming.
    I think I was a bit ahead of the curve on this one. We are still only at the really early stage of using things like Yahoo Pipes. These tools offer some incredible promise. But the true Visual Basic of Web 2.0 is still being figured out.

    Overall, I was ahead of where we actually went in 2007 and I got at least one seemingly wrong. Still, I don't think I did too bad considering where thinking was a year ago.

    Friday, December 21, 2007

    Yale Spam

    Yale recently released their Open Yale Courses. Tom Conroy, Deputy Director of Public Affairs, Yale University, invited me to an announcement session (sent 20 November 2007):
    I'd like to invite you to attend a bloggers-only press conference we're hosting on December 11th at 7:00 PM EDT to announce a new online initiative here at Yale. We came across your blog, eLearning Technology and we thought you'd be interested in joining.
    I sent Tom a nice note thanking him for the invitation, but declining. Then I got a note from Tom today (21 December 2007):
    I recently came across your site and found it to be interesting and informative. In case you have not already heard, I wanted to bring your attention to Yale University's newest initiative, which puts high-quality videos of seven of its most popular undergraduate courses online for the free use of the public. It's called "Open Yale Courses" and you can explore it at (
    Busted. He should have kept better track of who he sent his original spam. His first line makes it clear he is just sending out spam to various bloggers. I'm sure that Tom is just trying to do his job, but there's this funny, fine line between the first message and the second where the second clearly becomes inappropriate spam.

    And as a Director of Public Affairs, you would think that he might be more sensitive to the issue.

    In fact, there's a law against that sort of behavior:
    CAN-SPAM defines a "commercial electronic mail message" as "any electronic mail message the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service (including content on an Internet website operated for a commercial purpose)."
    What's interesting is that normally if you approach a blogger with an honest email that is making them aware of your product, service, idea, question, etc. - all of that is good stuff. While it might technically be considered spam, no blogger I know thinks of it that way. As soon as it becomes clear that you are sending it to a list with not thought of the individual recipient, it becomes clear spam.

    My guess is that lots of other bloggers got this same message. Anyone?

    Thursday, December 20, 2007

    Physics Lectures

    I had seen these physics lectures before, but I was reminded via Stephen Downes and the NY Times article about professor Lewin's lectures and was telling someone about them just the other day. Thought I should definitely point you to them. I personally am compelled by watching something like Planet Earth. Professor Lewin has managed to create something akin to that experience on a topic that can be made extremely boring by most professors.

    You can find his lectures on:, including electrostatics, mechanics, vibrations and waves. If you can't sit still for a whole lecture, then you can find a few of them on YouTube - see form of a battery.

    Now I'm curious if it wouldn't be better to have students watch these and then go have a discussion with their physics professor after. Or why have them take physics at their local university at all.

    Facebook Enterprise Application

    If you've not seen this, there's a Facebook application by Worklight called Workbook that represents an overlay to turn Facebook into an Enterprise Social Network application. This is something I've been expecting for a while based on some conversations with large organizations who planned to use Facebook as their social network.
    WorkBook combines all the capabilities of Facebook with all the controls of a corporate environment, including integration with existing enterprise security services and information sources. With WorkBook, employees can find and stay in touch with corporate colleagues, publish company-related news, create bookmarks to enterprise application data and securely share the bookmarks with authorized colleagues, update on status change and get general company news. Employees can freely use Facebook, with the WorkBook overlay, with no danger of information leaking outside the organization or access being granted to unauthorized personnel.

    New Feature in Webinar Tool

    Maybe I've not been paying attention, but in the webinar that I just finished, the tool GoToMeeting had a neat feature that showed the percentages of people who were paying attention (had the meeting visual in the foreground) vs. those who were not paying attention. These were shown in percentages - easy to see and understand. There was also a display of those in attendance vs. those who had left. Both of these were great pieces of information.

    I'm going to want them in my virtual meeting / classroom tools going forward.

    Also - know that the organizer/presenter can now tell if you have their visuals front and center!

    Wednesday, December 19, 2007

    Small Group Breakout Sessions at Conferences

    There's a great discussion in the comments on my post around small group discussions at conferences. I've updated the original post a bit and would welcome additional thoughts over the next two days in order to help me figure out what I'm going to do in my session at ASTD TechKnowledge.

    Tuesday, December 18, 2007

    Note Taking Help

    I'm doing some web research (actually I'm constantly doing web research) and I consistently find myself:

    1. Finding an interesting page
    2. Copying and Pasting Content from the Page
    3. Creating a small citation to the page
    4. Editing my thoughts

    This is part of creating blog posts or part of doing research.

    I've looked at various tools to use as part of this, but I'm finding that what I really want is a better Copy-to-Clipboard function (in Firefox) that would include a citation to the original source as part of the copy operation. In other words, it would combine steps 2 & 3.

    Any suggestions on that?

    Also, I've been evaluating various clipping, note taking tools such as Zotero, Clipmarks, Google Notebook and my frank opinion is that it forces me to use an interface that is limited as compared to putting it into a large document to play with. Any thoughts on this?

    Conference Session Breakout

    Update: 12/19/2007. There has been great discussion in the comments. I wanted to provide a bit more context for this.

    The session will be workforce learning professionals (an ASTD audience). They will range greatly in terms of the kinds of organizations, their experience.

    I'm trying to get them to think about the question "How might you use Blogs, Wikis, Social Bookmarking, Social Networking, Collaboration Tools in your organization?"

    I have a list of about 30 ideas, but I think it's useful to think about your organization, your specific context and come up with ideas for where these things might apply. I was planning to do this in small groups and then have them come back together in the larger group. But what I'm hearing is that this is not a good choice...

    Original post ... Uh oh, I just saw a post by Donald Clark slamming the use of small group breakouts during conference sessions.
    It’s a tired old fossil of a format.

    The topic for discussion is usually some ill-defined, banal question, so the group spend a further ten minutes clarifying what’s expected. The time left is usually far too short to get anything meaningfully debated and agreed. Even then it’s often a random selection of thoughts, rants and personal beefs.

    Feedback to the group consists of a series of disjointed thoughts, often weighted towards the thoughts of the facilitator. These are scribbled up on acres of flipchart pages blue-tacked on the wall, thereby ruining the d├ęcor of the room. The problem here is that this is hardly ever distilled into any sensible points for action.

    You’re generally left feeling short-changed.

    Uh oh ...

    I was pulling together my slides for ASTD TechKnowledge and had planned to do a small group breakout and then have each group contribute to the larger group. This is not something I normally do. And I've certainly had some of the experiences that Donald describes. Now I'm worried.

    Do I still do the breakout? Or is Donald pretty much right on track?

    My slides are due Friday, Dec. 21.

    Blogs as a Basis for Social Networks

    Interesting to see the buzz around Diso.

    DiSo (dee • zoh) is an umbrella project for a group of open source implementations of these distributed social networking concepts. or as Chris puts it: “to build a social network with its skin inside out”.

    Our first target is Wordpress, bootstrapping on existing work and building out from there.

    This aligns pretty well with my experience of Learning and Networking with a Blog. It appears to be heading in a good direction where you can have a distributed understanding of the social graph. While that sounds somewhat like OpenSocial, I'm still not sure that I believe that OpenSocial gets me what I really want/need - interacting with the social graph across sites.

    This is also a good direction in that it starts with something that you own as an individual - your blog (as opposed to starting within the walls of Facebook).

    Of course, this is early, but the general trend of seeing distributed, open social network solutions is encouraging.

    Friday, December 14, 2007

    Master's Education Technology or Instructional Design - Which Programs? Why?

    I'm hoping people might be able to help a reader who has an inquiry that I really don't know much about...

    I've been reading your blog for a while. I've read the an older blog post on Online Master's program's, but I am still quite lost.

    I would like to take a two year Master's program in education, education technology, or instructional design. Right now I'm leaning towards the University of Colorado Denver or the San Diego program.

    I am a corporate trainer wanting to expand my skills and knowledge to creating interactive training programs (eLearning).

    I am wondering if you have any suggestions on which Master program is would provide a solid education on this subject?

    I've known several people who went through the San Diego program and were quite good. But other than that, I don't have enough experience with this question to have any real thoughts.


    Wednesday, December 12, 2007

    Visual Thinking - Do You Have Questions?

    I've been having a bit of dialog with various folks from the VizThink conference about whether and how much Visual Thinking relates to eLearning. See:
    for background. These discussions have diverged into a discussion of whether I'd get value personally from the conference given my past challenges with being able to figure out how to create diagrams.

    Well Dave Gray has decided to take this on in an online session. You can see more information and sign up by clicking this link: How is Visual Thinking Related to eLearning?

    One important note on the description. It implies that I'll be answering questions - actually, I'll be asking questions. Hopefully Dave will be answering.

    In fact, if you have questions that you would like to see answered, please let me know.

    Monday, December 10, 2007

    Best eLearning Blog

    The winners of the Edublog awards were announced and I'm happy to report that this blog won for Best eLearning / Corporate Education. I want to thank each of you who voted in support of this blog. Sincerely, thank you!

    They've offered an opportunity to submit an "acceptance" but honestly, I'm a bit at a loss on what I should put in an acceptance.

    I definitely want to thank everyone who I've had conversations with over the past two years while writing this blog. The conversations have been the value for me and it's been tremendous.

    I'd start to name names, but I'd be worried that I would leave people out. And it would take me a few hours to go through and find all the names. Should I just suck it up and do that? Or is there another way to do it? Do you think people would feel slighted if I happen to miss them? Is that worth the risk?

    And other than thanking everyone, what else would I put in an acceptance? Anyone? Please help.

    Update: Here's what I submitted -
    Thank you for the edublog award. I want to especially thank my readers for voting for me, but I really want to thank everyone for all of the conversations we've had over the past two years. I really started my blog with the expectation that it would be similar to speaking engagements. What I've found is that it's a truly extraordinary Learning and Networking Tool. Through blogging, I've accelerated my learning greatly, I've met too many interesting people to possibly name and thank, I've met up with many of them face-to-face at various events, and truly it's become an integral part of my professional life. I look forward to continued conversation about the intersection of technology and learning.

    Update: I just saw a post by Clive Shepherd - Edublog Award Winners. He's actually done a nice job on this that I may essentially rip off...

    Now, I'm sure no-one starts blogging in order to win awards, although the appreciation of one's peers is always welcome. Looking at other measures of success, I'm probably financially a little worse off after devoting so much time to this blog over the past two years. Luckily there are benefits that far outweigh the costs, not least many new friends in the blogosphere and a hugely enriched understanding of the professional field in which I work. For this reason, I would recommend any other learning and development professionals out there with a story to tell and a willingness to share perspectives with your peer group to take the plunge and join us.

    I may skip the financially worse off part. :)

    Crash Course in Visual Thinking

    Based on my post - VizThink and Visual Thinking - I've received quite a bit of input. If you've not really thought about the connections between visual representations and eLearning, it's likely worth going to the post and reading the comments.

    If you've ever doubted the value of blogging, this to me has been an exceptional example of the value. I've had a few of the great minds in visual thinking helping me to understand:

    a. how visual thinking relates to eLearning, and
    b. how visual thinking can be learned.

    I'm looking forward to a series of posts that Christine Martell is doing around learning to think visually. And Tom Crawford just did a post that points to some resources for getting started in visual thinking. Dave Gray just sent me a link to his Squidoo Lens. It has some great resources. Although he scares me a bit when he tells me:
    Most of what I do comes down to pushing people off the cliff and making them dive in.
    Very visual description yes. But with a small fear of heights ... :)

    This is hopefully turning into a great introduction to how visual thinking can be learned.

    Interestingly, Christine, Tom and Dave Gray from Xplane all point to Bob Horn's book as a great example. I'm a bit worried if that's the example. I'm even more worried when I went to Bob's web site. Dave Gray has always done incredible graphics that really help me to quickly understand a topic. Bob's web site violates a lot of what I would consider to be good design. Please, tell me that I won't think that's good design by the end of this crash course? I can't imagine that anyone thinks that good design?

    Friday, December 07, 2007

    VizThink and Visual Thinking and Learning - Still Not Sure

    Tom Crawford is a person I consider to be a friend, colleague and really good person. He has a wonderful background including being director of eLearning at Root Learning and working for Masie organizing events. He is now CEO of Vizthink - and is organizing and running VizThink '08. I think he's done a wonderful job pulling together what looks to be a very interesting conference.

    All that said - I'm still not sure I really get the connection between visual thinking and eLearning. I asked Tom to help fill me in and so we've had a little dialog on it. I thought it would be worth sharing a bit of our conversation and inviting others to join in.

    Tom suggests...
    When creating an e-learning module, there are dozens, maybe even hundreds of pages of material required to document what is to be created. In some organizations, they have replaced the documentation with storyboards which are certainly a step in the right direction, visually. However, even storyboards can be complex to create, hard to update, and even harder to develop from. Visual thinking offers opportunities to streamline that development process especially during the review and approval stages. Very rarely will someone read pages of text, where a visual that communicates the same message provides a quick way for people to review and then respond. The process also benefits from the creation of personas, visual stories about the learner, which help keep the learner the focus of the design.
    I agree with Tom about using multiple Persona (Personas? Personi?) to help focus the design effort, but that's design 101, not really visual thinking. I definitely agree with creating representations of what the screens will be and/or storyboards. Again, design 101. So, what the heck is he talking about with this? Isn't this standard design stuff?

    Tom goes on ...

    Another portion of visual thinking is usability, information design, and interactivity. How often have you looked at an e-Learning module and not know what to do? Colors are drawing your eyes in many directions, text fills the screen and is hard to use, buttons work sometimes and not others with no indication of why, the interactivity does reinforce the message, the visual (often clipart or a stock photo) are irrelevant and distracting…these are all signs that more attention needed to be paid to the visual (and visual thinking) aspects of the module. The use of space, color, images, text, and interactivity are all significant portions of the visual thinking space, and if not done well they can inhibit and even prevent learning from occurring.

    Uh, Tom, this is exactly user interface design. There's got to be more, right? Or am I missing something in what he's talking about. I'm not saying good user experience design is not important - it is hugely important, especially for a lot of the projects that I work on. But, I have many sources for help with user experience - I'm not sure I get how that could be the focus of VizThink.

    Finally, he gets to what I expected him to discuss...

    Finally, and maybe most importantly, visualization can enhance almost every learning opportunity. When they are well designed, visuals communicate more information, more quickly, with more retention and longer recall. The application of visual thinking is across all art styles from photos and video to sketching and illustration to virtual worlds and even product design. New tools allow annotation, collaboration, and co-creation visually. Rather than talking about doing something, people use the creative process to solve problems, generate ideas, and streamline processes.

    To me, when you talk visual thinking, I normally think of the wonderful diagrams that people can create from your concepts (see Marilyn Martin's picture of my eLearning 2.0 concepts).

    There certainly is big value from being able to take concepts and turn them into diagrams, pictures, visualizations. Kathy Sierra is a master of that. I've always felt that there was a certain skill required to do that where you can crystalize the important issues, simplify, picture them and then render. I'm sure that Tom's conference will talk a lot about this.

    And, certainly if you are able to do that, you can create more powerful learning tools. Just like you can create more powerful marketing tools, communication tools, etc.

    So, again, I highly respect Tom and the conference. And maybe it's as simple as the fact that a lot of what we do in training, learning, education is try to crystalize the important points, and turn it into an engaging, meaningful learning experience. So, maybe it's a parallel and very useful skill. But I have this sense that Tom thinks there's more to it.

    And, I just am still not sure I get what he's seeing? What am I missing here?

    Thursday, December 06, 2007

    Communities / Social Networking and LMS Merger

    Update 12/7/07 - Great comments from David Wilkins (see below) including:
    user-generated content is going to change eLearning; anyone who thinks otherwise or who is not yet planning for the shift is going to be left wondering what the heck happened in just a few years.
    I've not seen a lot about Mzinga in the eLearning world, but it represents something pretty interesting. Mzinga is a merger of KnowledgePlanet (an LMS provider and also the maker of the eLearning simulation tool - Firefly) and Shared Insights - a community / business social networking software company.

    From what I can gather from the press releases and based on who's in charge of the combined company, it appears that KnowledgePlanet is somewhat the loser. The top execs at Mzinga are not the top execs from KnowledgePlanet. It makes me wonder what this says about the LMS and tools market. We are beginning to see dominance by a few bigger vendors and if you can't be one of them, then it's tough sledding.

    The other interesting thing here is that it seems like LMS vendors really are moving away from being LMS vendors. Previously, I talked about how they are now referring to themselves in terms of talent management and workforce productivity. There have also been moves to become focused on a niche such as an industry or function or certification.

    This merger points to another direction - combination of LMS capability + community / social networking. I'm not sure I quite get what that means yet. I wonder if mzinga does? The description of their offerings seem still mostly separate (communities software and the KP learning platform). Also, if you go to the solutions page, it doesn't mention Firefly. And even the name of the page - Community Solutions - suggests that the LMS isn't all that important.

    Luckily David Wilkins - who I've known for quite a few years - has helped me try to understand. It sounds a lot like an LMS with integrated communities. But like Q2Learning, they aim to provide visibility into community activities. This is something that I think makes sense, especially when trying to get communities going. David helps to paint a bit of a picture:
    ...think certification training with links to discussion forums or a Wiki or relevant files in a shared file repository...
    He also pointed me to a Gartner quote:
    Enterprise social software will be the biggest new workplace technology success story of this decade.
    This certainly helps us understand why you might want to have someone like KP's sales and marketing to help you sell community software into the enterprise.

    italki - Social Network for Language Learning

    italki is an interesting website in the language learning space - which seems to be very busy these days. They provide the ability to connect with other learners who are trying to learn a language. People find each other using the site and then connect via chat, IM, voice/Skype, etc.

    There are other resources, but the use of a social network to find people who can help each other learn the language is a great idea.

    Not sure if it can work in practice given the many other barriers that will come up.

    I'd be curious what people think about this as a learning mechanism.

    Too many updates

    I use FeedBlitz to provide email subscriptions to my blog. A surprising number of people actually use this option - roughly 150 of 3,000 subscriptions. I get a couple sign-ups for email every week and about every other week someone unsubscribes. Feedblitz allows the user to specify a reason. Most often it's either "no longer relevant" or "subscribed in another way."

    Today I got my first cancellation with the reason "Too many updates" ...

    It actually, made me smile.

    I've become part of the problem. :)

    Tuesday, December 04, 2007

    Aha Moments in 2007

    The Big Question is back...

    December Big Question - What did you learn about learning?

    I'm going after this just a little bit different. I wanted to go back and figure out what things really struck me during 2007....

    So I first went back to what I wrote about last year:

    Some of the more specific memories from 2006:
    • I started my blog in February 2006.

    • I started using and Yahoo MyWeb to save bookmarks - locally saved favorites seem rather limited now.

    • I had a real "aha experience" after using add-ins to provide features inside my blog. Boy were they easy to use. It's all pure service. And this experience kept coming all during the year with Wikis, and more (Incredibly Cool! Vision of Future of Application and eLearning Development)

    • I found myself no longer recommending the use of RoboInfo or other similar programs for reference materials. Wikis are way better even if the end-users don't edit.

    • I had a very interesting disagreement with a client about the technical direction for their solution - they wanted local editing via a Word add-in locally installed - I advocated providing a pure web delivered solution. I lost the argument. In the long run, they'll lose. No one should advocate putting stuff on a desktop anymore without a dang good reason.

    • I found myself using Wikipedia early in research tasks on all sorts of topics.

    But by far the most vivid memory of 2006 comes from a comment made during a panel that I was moderating on eLearning 2.0. We had discussed Wikis, Blogs and were embarking on Second Life. Someone from the audience in all sincerity said:

    “This stuff is freaking me out.”

    She is right on the money. It is freaking us out. We know something pretty special is happening right now.

    If you are a glutton for more of this, take a look at:

    Wow, what a great list from 2006, I'm glad I have that saved somewhere. ;)

    So how about in here's a random list of things from 2007:
    But probably the biggest sign of the times for me is that I personally find myself working on helping lots of organizations figure out how social media, new technologies, etc. affect them and their users.

    Cisco - Enterprise 2.0

    I don't know how I missed this, but thanks to Bill Ives for covering it on the FastForward blog -More Web 2.0 Stories, Part One: Cisco Goes All Out on Enterprise 2.0 points us to:

    Mike Gotta - Cisco: Learning Internally Before Delivering Externally and Money's Cisco's display of strength

    [Martin] De Beer a year ago set up an internal wiki called I-Zone that has so far generated 400 business ideas. "Better still," he says, "another 10,000 people have added to those ideas." His team measures which notions draw the most activity and cherry-picks a handful to unveil at Cisco's quarterly leadership-development program. Normally at such gatherings, promising up-and-comers from across a company hear lectures, bond, and ponder case studies. But De Beer decided to use these sessions to take the most promising I-Zone ideas and pound them into real-world business plans. Three of the nine notions so tested are now in active development.

    This whole process has been an eye opener even for Chambers. He used to tell his staff, "I do strategy; you do execution." "He was amazed," says Ron Ricci, a former consultant who since 2000 has served as Cisco's internal culture keeper. "He said, 'We just did three billion-dollar market opportunities without my knowing about it.'"
    This sounds a bit like IBM's innovation jams which have been very successful in generating ideas and discussion across the organization.
    In September [2007] it launched a website that is a microcosm of everything evoked by the phrase "Web 2.0." There's a Ciscopedia, where people can build an evolving body of lore about anything fellow Ciscans might want to know.

    This sounds similar to what Intel did with Intelpedia - which has been really great at providing support across a wide cross section of activities at Intel. Several training initiatives have made good use of content being created on Intelpedia.

    There are text blogs and video blogs, discussion groups, and "problems and solutions links." There's an internal version of MySpace, which provides not only title and contact info but also personal profiles, job histories, interests, and videos. Soon it will show whether a person is reachable by, say, office phone, cell, IM, or telepresence, and offer a one-click connection.

    Fantastic. Great way to find expertise and resources. Capture best practices. And support personal learning and networking.

    And there's more. "We're going to use social bookmarking to allow us to take the pulse of the organization," says Jim Grubb, who built the website (and whose day job is putting together John Chambers' demos). They'll do that by aggregating the tags employees create into "tag clouds" when they click on sites. Tracking these will allow a Cisco honcho to get a snapshot of the current hot-button issues for marketing or finance. If an employee is tagged as the go-to person for virtualization, say, he could earn a bonus for this previously unacknowledged expertise. That's down the road. Asked for a here-and-now example, Cisco marketing head Sue Bostrom laughs (proudly) and recounts the six-month online campaign to develop and select a five-note "Cisco sound" for TV and Internet ads. "Ten thousand employees voted," she says, "and 1,200 partners also participated."
    Great description of what organizations can do.

    Friday, November 30, 2007

    Getting Value from LinkedIn

    For a person who I generally think is pretty smart Thomas Davenport (his book Thinking for a Living is generally quite good), I find him saying some pretty weak things. A couple months ago, I took him to task in Thomas Davenport and Blogging - He is Wrong!

    In his book he tells us basically that blogs have
    detracted from productivity, not increased it. ...
    He misses the value proposition of Blogging as a Learning and Networking tool.

    Now Davenport is at it again with a post (on his blog no less - I guess he doesn't want to be productive himself) - LinkedIn Is Not a Social Network. In this post, he says:
    I’ve been on LinkedIn for several years. I never initiate a “connection,” but I dutifully accept invitations to connect, even when I don’t know the person. When I do know the person, I often wonder why, if they really want to connect with me, they don’t just send me an email or call me on the phone. I can safely say that I have gotten nothing out of the site other than emails saying that so-and-so would like to connect. Occasionally people I know have asked me through LinkedIn for access to my connections -- which an email notifies me of -- and I wonder why they didn’t just send me an email themselves. It’s a funny world.
    He never initiates a connection? What!?!

    Either Tom doesn't get it, or Tom doesn't ever need to find expertise on a topic. Maybe he should look through his network for something like "social networking" to find some expertise on the topic as he's thinking about the possible value proposition?

    I've met fantastic people through LinkedIn. The key ingredient is being able to formulate what you are looking for. Most people I've met through LinkedIn are quite willing to spend time talking with me about the particular issue. I never abuse it. I've done my homework first. But there's nothing like drilling down on a topic with a person for 30-60 minutes.

    Or maybe Tom should ask a question on LinkedIn such as "How do people get value from LinkedIn?" to help him learn how to formulate requests? He would get wonderful responses on this.

    Tom also wonders "why people didn't just send him an email" when they are making a connection. It's because, the person making the request has done a search on LinkedIn and is routing it through you.

    I'm really convinced Tom has never tried this before. Once you've done this a couple of times, it's pretty clear how it works and how you get value.

    Note: I personally no longer ever go more than to a 2nd level connection. One hop away. That way the person doing the introduction knows both people. With a few hundred connections, depending on the specific need, you often have quite good people only one hop away.

    Tom did say in his post...
    let me state that I don’t think I’m alone in this feeling. At a conference a while back on social network issues, a speaker asked the audience, “How many of you are on LinkedIn?” Virtually all of the 100 or so attendees raised their hands. Then he asked, “How many of you have gotten anything valuable from LinkedIn?” Only one person had his hand raised. I didn’t know him, but I’m guessing he had used it to look for a job.
    I've heard similar things as well. I believe that many people, not just Tom, must not have really tried this out. Or they've gone onto LinkedIn without a specific need. If you are just browsing around, you will be disappointed. But with a specific need, it's a fantastic tool.

    And, of all people, Tom should understand this. He talks very specifically in his book about being able to maintain a network and access it when needed to derive value. Quite often I find value from my direct connections using LinkedIn - and I didn't realize they knew about the topic until I searched. It's a very efficient way of tapping into your network. I wonder how Tom does it? I'd be curious about the productivity around his approach?

    Oh, and while I'm complaining about Tom. Cmon man, respond to comments left on your blog. Respond to blog posts - like this one. And stop putting things like:

    If you're interested in my consulting services ...

    If you know you want my speaking services ...

    as the only possible reasons to contact you (on your contact page). It makes it seem like you wouldn't want someone to contact you unless they are willing to pay.

    Or maybe this is starting to explain part of the reason why Tom's not seeing value in LinkedIn, blogging, ...

    For more discussions on networking and LinkedIn see Networking Events in Los Angeles and Southern California, Secret for Networking at Events – Prenetworking, Pre-network with LinkedIn, Local Event Organizers Need to Adopt Social Media.

    Big Question is Back

    I just wanted to alert folks that Learning Circuit's Big Question has been revived. We've lost Dave Lee's forms, but we are going back to the old manual approach. I hope you'll join the party and submit your thoughts on the question:

    The Big Question for December is:

    If you are new to blogging, this is a great way to get your blog noticed.

    Semantic Web Applications - Mundane or Interesting

    A recent post by Richard MacManus on
    discusses several semantic web applications. Richard explains semantic web applications as:
    A key element is that the apps below all try to determine the meaning of text and other data, and then create connections for users.
    For example, ClearForest provides a Firefox extension called Gnosis. It is a bit of a dog, but it can "identify the people, companies, organizations, geographies and products on the page you are viewing." It recognizes Companies, Countries, Industry Terms, Organizations, People, Products and Technologies. Each word that Gnosis recognizes, gets colored according to the category. This technique is often called entity extraction.

    What got me to post was that Stephen Downes tells us:
    all this semantic goodness is now so common-place, it's impossible to see any distinguishing features...

    None of it really speaks to me.
    I'm somewhat in agreement that by themselves, many of these applications don't seem all that interesting. But, the title of the article was "to watch."

    Take entity extraction as an example. When you combine that with relational navigation as is offered by Siderean, you get an interesting result. Go visit Environmental Health News. Do a search, such as for "cancer" and you get a page with a sidebar that looks like the one shown to the left.

    It's really powerful to be able to see content organized in this fashion, especially with counts. It helps makes sense out of any body of information. Helps you navigate through it using a browse mode in combination with search. It's a very powerful tool in a lot of contexts.

    The key ingredient though is having a means to extract the meaning out of the content.

    This speaks to me.

    Thursday, November 29, 2007

    Facebook Alfresco Platform

    Found via Publishing Enterprise Content To Facebook -

    Alfresco - a content management system has provided hooks for it to be used to deliver content to Facebook users.

    This model, where Facebook becomes a platform for application development has some really interesting aspects. However, the open aspect of OpenSocial likely will win out in the long run. Especially with some of the pain of developing Facebook apps.

    Tuesday, November 27, 2007

    eLearning Guild Research Reports

    In my last post on Flash Quiz Tools, I mentioned how I had used the eLearning Guild Research to streamline my effort of find the right tools.

    This post is probably long overdue, but the use of the data from the guild has been a really great resource and has lead to posts such as:
    I personally get the most value by having direct data access to the reports. That way I can slice and dice the reports as I need. However, the BIG ANNOUNCEMENT:

    The eLearningGuild recently announced that they would give copies of the PDF reports to all Associate Members (which is free with a profile completion). This level of membership also gives you several other nice things such as the eMag, access to data behind eLearning Buyers Guide, Training Modalities, the e-Learning Salary & Compensation Report, and the e-Learning Projects Database.

    And, if I'm not mistaken this includes direct data access to the Tools Satisfaction data that I just used in my last post!

    It's definitely worth the price, i.e., the time it takes to fill in the profile.

    The PDF research reports include the following, but I believe that you also get access to some of the slightly older reports such as Informal Learning, Future Directions, Extended Enterprise, etc. You can click on the images to see more information about each report.

    Immersive Learning Simulations
    Learning Management Systems
    Synchronous Learning Systems
    Mobile Learning

    Flash Quiz Tools

    Update June 2008 - added one free flash quiz tool based on a question I received. This tool is listed at the bottom.

    A client wanted to create online quizzes that would live inside of a larger site. They didn't really need tracking of user responses, instead they wanted them to be fun. I suggested a couple of tools, but then wondered if I had given them the best list of tools.

    So, the eLearningGuild research again to the rescue... Here's guild member satisfaction ratings for tools in the test / quiz category. Note: there are additional rating items such as would use again, vendor responsiveness, etc.

    Note - the empty column now contains links to more information on the tools. So I could quickly gather specific data on the product. Unfortunately, it didn't tell me how they produced output and the desire was for self-contained Flash. But, I could quickly link to the sites to find out more and finally recommended that they should look at:

    Articulate Quizmaker allows you to easily create Flash-based quizzes, surveys, and assessments. And, Quizmaker allows you to track your results with your standards based Learning Management System as Quizmaker output is SCORM and AICC compliant.

    Adobe Captivate is the easiest way to create professional-quality, interactive simulations and software demonstrations in Adobe's Flash format. Without any programming or multimedia skills, users can automatically record onscreen actions, including editable mouse movements, text captions, and scored click boxes. Add e-learning interactions like data-entry fields and customizable quizzes.

    Respondus StudyMate is a Windows authoring tool that lets you create numerous Flash-based activities and games using four simple templates. StudyMate provides an authoring environment that requires no experience with Flash programming, game design, or HTML. Questions and items can also be imported from MS Word, IMS QTI, Respondus, rich-text, and other formats. This makes it possible to create interesting, interactive activities from existing content. Other features include an Equation Editor, a spell checker, the ability to include image files and web links, and question/answer randomization. The Flash activities that can be created with StudyMate include: Fact Cards, Fact Cards Plus, Flash Cards, Fill In the Blank, Pick A Letter, Matching, Glossary, Crosswords, Quiz, and Challenge. It is also possible to generate three activities that can be used with iPods, PSP players and other portable devices.

    OnDemand Presenter provides the ability to develop robust multi media content allowing you to easily incorporate both conceptual and transactional information into interactive presentations. Creates interactive questions and tests using 14 different question and survey types.

    Rapid Intake Flashform Rapid eLearning Studio creates interactive Flash-based AICC or SCORM-conformant e-learning courseware. Quickly create Flash-based e-learning courses, quizzes, and tests. Add an integrated glossary - Add external audio, video, and images into the course content Flashform is customizeable and extensible by any knowledgeable Flash developer.

    So, I had missed a couple that we've not used in the shop. And, I'm sure I'm missing others as well, but since these were at the top of the satisfaction list, I figure it's pretty reasonable.

    New tool added June 2008 -

    Class Marker - Free. Create multiple choice, true false, free text, short answer, fill in the blank and punctuation quizzes

    Monday, November 26, 2007

    Camtasia and SnagIt for Free

    Found via Leonard Low.

    TechSmith is giving away SnagIt and an older version of Camtasia Studio for Free.

    SnagIt is a handy tool for capturing screen shots, especially portions of the screen. If you frequently do this (and then copy and paste into your graphics application to cut the portions you want), then go get this tool. It also gives you some nifty delivery options.

    Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (English)
    Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (German)
    Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (French)

    Click here for a key to register SnagIt 7.2.5 demo as a fully licensed version.

    Camtasia Studio is a great screen recording tool. It consistently gets pretty good satisfaction ratings. You are able to get a full, but older, Version 3.1.3 for free download.

    Click here to download Camtasia Studio 3.1.3.

    Click here to request a software key to register Camtasia Studio 3.1.3 as a fully licensed version.

    Top eLearning Posts

    Given the nomination, I'm not sure how much new traffic will come to check out this blog, but I know that it's always hard to come to a blog and get a sense of what the person talks about. This is the reason I created the First Time Visitor's Guide. However, it's been a while since I last updated this page.

    Based on my Aha Moment - as Indicator of Valuable Content I've tried to go back and figure out what people were finding valuable.

    I first took what I was getting from Google Analytics to see what was viewed over the past six months (approximately 125,000 page views in total). You'll notice that it skips from roughly 600 to 300 in the number of views. That's because I started including pages based on number of bookmarks. Roughly pages that were saved five or more times, I included. See another sort below...

    Post Views Comments Bookmarks
    6,890 16 152
    4,337 11 35
    2,345 17 67
    1,988 6 40
    1,820 9 24
    1,724 2 11
    1,655 6 98
    1,503 0 1
    1,500 22 52
    1,368 1 22
    1,206 17 21
    1,199 3 23
    1,155 8 6
    1,147 2 28
    1,140 9 43
    972 1 6
    967 0 1
    959 38 16
    949 1 1
    911 10 20
    880 2 5
    847 7 3
    837 4 11
    832 4 10
    814 8 5
    754 3 40
    702 5 25
    701 6 13
    667 5 1
    602 2 20
    298 15 8
    276 5 5
    237 5 12
    180 2 5
    109 1 15
    107 4 8
    106 1 12
    57 9 9
    51 2 5
    46 4 6
    31 0 5
    19 5 7
    16 2 6

    Then I did it again, but this time sorted based on number of bookmarks:

    Post Views Comments Bookmarks
    6,890 16 152
    1,655 6 98
    2,345 17 67
    1,500 22 52
    1,140 9 43
    1,988 6 40
    754 3 40
    4,337 11 35
    1,147 2 28
    702 5 25
    1,820 9 24
    1,199 3 23
    1,368 1 22
    1,206 17 21
    911 10 20
    602 2 20
    959 38 16
    109 1 15
    701 6 13
    237 5 12
    106 1 12
    1,724 2 11
    837 4 11
    832 4 10
    57 9 9
    298 15 8
    107 4 8
    19 5 7
    1,155 8 6
    972 1 6
    46 4 6
    16 2 6
    880 2 5
    814 8 5
    276 5 5
    180 2 5
    51 2 5
    31 0 5
    847 7 3
    1,503 0 1
    967 0 1
    949 1 1
    667 5 1

    In my mind, this second list order is a much more accurate representation of what's good to read on this blog.